This 10-year time lapse of the solar cycle is breathtaking



You should probably go look at the sun this weekend.

While this would normally be a bad idea, thanks to a recently released time-lapse depicting the sun's solar cycle, you could do it safely from the comfort of your own home.

NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in February 2010, a first-of-its-kind spacecraft with a single mission: to study the sun.

NASA has created a stunning time-lapse depicting the sun's solar cycle, an 11-year period bookended by the flipping of the star's 

The Solar Cycle

The hour-long video begins at the "solar minimum" of the sun's solar cycle. This time period is relatively calm, with only the occasional burst of bright light signalling some type of solar activity, such as a sunspot or solar flare.

The number and intensity of these bursts increase in the video until they peak near the cycle's midpoint — when it reaches the "solar maximum" — and then begin to subside.

NASA did not expect the SDO to capture the entire solar cycle when it launched — it was only designed for a five-year mission.

But because it has remained functional for twice that, NASA scientists have been able to collect data on a full cycle — data they can use to predict the sun’s future magnetic activity, which could affect everything from the function of satellites to the health of astronauts.

A Decade of SDO Discoveries

During its decade in orbit, the data collected from SDO has yielded many discoveries — and at least one of which may eventually help us power life on Earth.

In  2019, the SDO led to a discovery of a brand-new type of magnetic explosion that scientists had first theorized existed a decade prior.

That discovery could help researchers figure out how to better control plasma in a lab setting, which could help with the development of nuclear fusion technology.

And the SDO isn’t done yet — it still has its sights fixed firmly on the sun, meaning it could yield new insights in the future that we haven’t even considered.