WATCH: NASA captures breathtaking images of the sun

Posted at 8:57 AM, Feb 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-16 12:12:52-05

For five years, a NASA spacecraft has drifted through the heavens, providing astronomers with the most detailed views of the sun to date.

And now, following the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) mission’s fifth anniversary, we can share in some of the most dramatic and mesmerizing moments of the last half-decade in space.

The SDO provides hugely detailed images of the sun, around the clock, at a rate of about one a second. That’s a lot of photos — and a lot of data (2,600 terabytes of the stuff) — to sift through.

The resulting timelapse video, released by the space agency in recognition of the anniversary, features some of the mission’s highlights and is in equal measure fascinating and awe-inspiring.

Alongside tremendous solar flares and sunspots boiling to the surface of the star, the observatory captured the Transit of Venus — in which the planet can clearly be seen moving in silhouette across the surface of the sun — twice.

The massive plasma jets and roiling surface activity gives a sense of exactly how powerful and magnificent the sun truly is.

And these breathtaking, unprecedented images of the sun provide a fitting tribute to an ambitious and ongoing mission that aims to enhance our understanding of our solar system.