This is what the sun would look like if it were somersaulting through space

For seven hours on July 6, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) did a 360 degree spin, on one axis, through space.

By taking images every 12 seconds and then colorizing the ultraviolet wavelengths of the photo in gold, NASA created a time lapse of the sun that is no less than spectacular.


The SDO has been studying the sun since 2010, and it’s the most advanced telescope ever to do so. The SDO completes this backflip through space twice a year.

The manoeuvre helps tune up the SDO’s Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI), an instrument that takes precise measurements of the solar limb (the outer edge of the sun).

Because the surface of the sun is not perfectly spherical, but dynamic and unpredictable, doing this spin and imaging the sun’s perimeter helps recalibrate the instrument, giving it a better view and allowing it to make more precise maps.

By mapping the solar limb, scientists can understand how the shape of the sun changes with respect to the solar cycle, the sun’s 11-year pattern of solar activity. According to NASA, this allows them to make better predictions about the onset of giant eruptions solar material and radiation that can be a threat to satellites and astronauts.

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