Three Years of Sun in Three Minutes: NASA Video

Written by Gina Smith

NASA filmed the sun for three years straight. Here’s the sun in three years in three minutes — the video. Here’s how NASA created the video, what space tech was required and where in the video you can catch comets, amazing flares and the Transit of Venus. Whoa.

aNewDomain — This is an incredible video NASA posted. It’s a timelapse video of the sun. Check out the video. You’re looking at three years of sun in three minutes. Beautiful. Scroll below for a description of exactly what you’re seeing — in the video you’ll see Comet Lovejoy and the Transit of Venus from the standpoint of NASA’s eye on the sun — and find out what tech NASA used to capture this. Killer.

Video: NASA

According to researchers, “in the three years since it first provided images of the sun in the spring of 2010, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has had virtually unbroken coverage of the sun’s rise toward solar maximum, the peak of solar activity in its regular 11-year cycle.”

This video shows the sun over those three years — at the rate of about two images a day. How’d NASA do it? NASA SDO researchers say its Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) “captures a shot of the sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths.”

So the images you see in the above, they explain, are based on a wavelength of 171 Angstroms. That is in the extreme ultraviolet range of the light spectrum. It “shows solar material at around 600,000 Kelvin,” NASA researchers say, explaining that “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.”

Notice how the size of the sun appears to change during the course of the video. NASA SDO researchers say that is because the distance between the SDO spacecraft and the sun changes, of course. But look how stable the image is even considering that.

According to NASA, “the SDO orbits the Earth at 6,876 miles per hour and the Earth orbits the sun at 67,062 miles per hour.” The SDO is a key instrument to help scientists learn about our star, Sol. We’ve shown you the solar flares and coronal mass ejections the SDO captured via stories here at

Now scientists are learning more about what causes such giant explosions. The goal, NASA says, is to gain the ability to someday predict solar weather. Here’s a schedule of events you should check out as you watch this video, according to NASA. There are two partial eclipses (of the Sun by Earth’s moon), a large solar flare, a sighting of the comet, Lovejoy, and of course the transit of Venus.

00:30 Partial eclipse by the moon

00:31 Roll maneuver

01:11 The X6.9 Flare of August 2011 … currently the largest of this solar cycle

01:28 Comet Lovejoy passing December 15, 2011

01:42 Roll Maneuver

01:51 Transit of Venus, June 5, 2012

02:28 Partial eclipse by the moon.”

For aNewDomain, I’m .

Gina Smith is The New York Times bestselling author of Apple founder Steve Wozniak’s biography, iWoz: How I Invented the Personal Computer and Had Fun Doing It (Norton, 2006/2014). She is also founder and editorial director here at aNewDomain. Email her at, follow her @ginasmith888 and find her posts on Google+ at her +Gina Smith page.