A new NASA video provides a stunning look at the sun's daily life over a span of three years.
Made by stitching together photographs taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, the video shows the sun rotating like a disco ball as solar flares dance off the surface. The images are all taken in the extreme ultraviolet light range, according to SPACE.COM.
"In this wavelength it is easy to see the sun's 25-day rotation as well as how solar activity has increased over three years," NASA officials said in a statement.
The sun experiences regular periods of heightened activity and regular quiet. It's currently entering what astronomers call a "solar maximum" — a high in solar flares and other activity that occurs in a regular 11-year cycle. Some of these solar storms send particles flinging toward Earth. When the particles interact with Earth's magnetically charged upper atmosphere, they can disrupt satellite technology and electrical grids. NASA scientists hope that observing the sun's day-to-day activity will help predict this space weather.
The new video shows the sun twice a day for three years, and waxing and waning activity is clear. The Solar Dynamics Observatory doesn't just snap pictures, though: It also provides measurements of the sun's magnetic field, the sun's interior and the hot plasma atmosphere that extends from the sun's surface into space.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.