Happy 5th Launchiversary SDO!

Five years ago today, at 10:23 a.m. EST on Feb, 11, 2010, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, sending the most advanced solar observatory satellite into orbit and giving us an amazing new look at our home star. Since then SDO has been monitoring the…

A Matter of Scale

Note: this post was first published on Feb. 22, 2011. I’m reposting it again today because 1. the video creator has since updated the soundtrack, and 2. it’s still awesome. One of the things that fascinates me so much about the Universe is the incredible vastness of scale, distance and size. On Earth we have…

Four Years of SDO

It’s hard to believe it’s already been four years that NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has kept a watchful eye on our home star, but here we are: 2014, and the four-year anniversary of the Feb. 11 launch has come and gone. Amazing. But what’s even more amazing are all the incredible observations and discoveries SDO…

The Brightest Lights: 12 Awesome Space Stories of 2013

What a year for space exploration! With 2013 coming to a close I thought I would look back on some of the biggest news in space that I’ve featured here on Lights in the Dark. Rather than a “top ten” list, as is common with these year-end reviews, I’m going to do more of a…

Watch the Sun’s Skin Split Open (and Then Heal Itself)

Like some kind of stellar superhero (or maybe a cosmic vampire!) our Sun’s surface splits apart and then fuses itself back together in this mesmerizing video from SDO and the folks at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center — check it out! All right now, while the Sun doesn’t really have skin like we do or…

Alan Friedman on Photographing the Sun

I’ve featured many of Alan Friedman’s amazing photos of the Sun here on Lights in the Dark, starting from the very first one I came across via the venerable Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) in November 2009. I’ve even featured Alan’s work in several articles I’ve written for National Geographic News, Discovery News, and Universe…

This Video of a Sunspot in Motion Will Blow Your Mind

Yesterday, io9.com writer Robert Gonzalez shared a truly incredible image of a sunspot taken by the New Solar Telescope (NST) at Big Bear Solar Observatory in California. The detail of the magnetically-active region and surface of our home star is simply stunning, thanks to the NST’s new Visible Imaging Spectrometer — literally setting a new…

Our Sun is Awesome

It really is. I mean, nevermind that it comprises over 99% of all the mass in our solar system, that it supplies our planet with the energy needed to sustain life on its surface, that its constantly-blowing solar wind helps keep some of those nasty cosmic particles out of the planetary neighborhood, and that it…

A Backyard View of a Solar Prominence

An enormous tree-shaped prominence spreads its “branches” tens of thousands of miles above the Sun’s photosphere in this image, a section of a photo acquired in hydrogen alpha (Ha) by Alan Friedman last week from his backyard in Buffalo, NY. Writes Alan on his blog, “gotta love a sunny day in November!” Check out the full image…

Experience Eclipse Totality (VIDEO)

Totality — that brief period during a solar eclipse when the Moon is completely centered in front of the Sun’s disk — is a truly amazing sight, so much so that many people who have seen it once (a privileged group that doesn’t include me, sadly!) will travel across the globe in an effort witness…

Watch Today’s Total Eclipse Live

Today, tens of thousands of people are gathering in northeastern Australia to witness one of the most amazing and dramatic astronomical events known: a total solar eclipse. At 2:39 p.m. EDT (19:39 UT) the Moon will begin to pass in front of the Sun for viewers around Cairns, Australia, leading up to a brief period…

Here Comes the Sun! CME Headed Toward Earth, Saturday Delivery

As you read this, a huge cloud of charged solar particles is speeding toward our planet, a coronal mass ejection resulting from an X1.4-class flare that erupted from sunspot 1520 on July 12. The CME is expected to collide with Earth’s magnetic field just after 6 a.m. EDT Saturday, potentially affecting satellite operations and tripping…