Scientists who study solar weather try to find patterns in the violent, chaotic motion of magnetic field lines above the sun's surface. Though the lines aren't actually visible, their patterns are illuminated by the streams of hot plasma that travel along them. But, while the giant coronal loops that form during major solar storms are easy to pick out, the field lines are generally so tangled up that it's hard to pick any one of them out.
To help solve that problem, researchers can apply a gradient filter to the images. The filter increases contrast, bringing the solar weather patterns into focus.
See the Earth at the upper-left of the image to compare size relationship.
"The M1.7-class flare that erupted from active region 1461 on Monday, April 16 let loose an enormous coronal mass ejection many, many times the size of Earth, making this particular writer very happy that our planet was safely tucked out of aim at the time… and 93 million miles away."
"The big solar flare and coronal mass ejection earlier this week created an unusual event on the Sun: it rained. Not water drops of course, but coronal rain. After the eruption, blobs of plasma fell back to the surface of the Sun, sometimes making ‘splashes’ where they hit. Coronal rain is plasma gas that condenses in the corona and then descends back to the surface. It has long been a mystery and its motion has perplexed solar physicists. For some reason, coronal rain falls much slower than is expected for plasma falling due to the huge gravitational pull of the Sun. Many times, rather than falling straight down — as it would if gravity was the only force pulling on it — the plasma rain follows invisible magnetic field lines, which can be detected by instruments on board watchful spacecraft."
"SDO observed a beautiful prominence eruption shot off the east limb (left side) of the Sun (April 16, 2012). Such eruptions are often associated with solar flares, and in this case an M1.7 class (medium-sized) flare did occur at the same time, though it was not aimed toward Earth. The movie (in extreme ultraviolet light) covers four hours of activity. As we have observed in some other events, some of the charged particles do not have enough force behind them to break away and they can be seen streaming back into the Sun."
"Astrophotographer Bill Snyder captured the Dumbbell Nebula - a cloud of star debris which offers a vision of the death throes of our own solar system. 'All the expanding gas and dust in this image was inside that star,' says Snyder. When sun-like stars die they 'puff' out their outer layers of gas, which form a huge cloud lit up by core of the dead star. Our own sun will blossom into a similar nebula when it dies in about five billion years."
"The first part of the video from SDO, (taken in 171 Angstrom wavelength, which is typically shown in yellow) was filmed on Dec 15, 2011 showing Comet Lovejoy moving in toward the Sun, with its tail “wiggling” from its interaction with the solar wind. The second part of the clip shows the comet exiting from behind the right side of the Sun, after an hour of travel through its closest approach." Nancy Atkinson
The Solar Dynamics Observatory takes images of the Sun about every 10 seconds, so it easily was able to capture the Sun when the clocks and calendars lined up for a mathematically synchronous readout. Below is another image at the same time in different wavelength.
You can check out what the Sun looks like at anytime of the day or year the the SDO website.
"NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has spotted one of the largest new sunspots to appear on the surface of the sun in years. It is nearly 25,000 miles wide, or more than three times larger than the Earth. The enormous sunspot was seen rotating over the sun’s northeastern limb on Nov. 3."
"This video created with data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory is just absolutely and astoundingly beautiful, showing magnetic loops on the Sun earlier today (October 22, 2011). Via @TheSunToday Twitter feed, just watch how the magnetic loops jump, shimmer and coil back into the Sun, following a long duration M1 flare at about 1100 UTC."
"Did a sun-diving comet just cause a solar explosion? Probably not. Recently, this comet dove toward the Sun and was followed very quickly by a Coronal Mass Ejection (CMEs) from the other side of the Sun. The first two sequences in the above video shows the spectacular unfolding of events as seen by the Sun-orbiting SOHO satellite, while the same events were also captured by both Sun-orbiting STEREO satellites."