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Is the Sun Changing 2020? | A Decade of Sun

The sun in 2020.
What cycle is the sun in currently?

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory -- SDO -- has been observing the Sun continuously for a full decade now. From its orbit around the Earth in space, SDO has collected 425 million high-resolution images of the Sun over the past 10 years, accumulating 20 million gigabytes of data.

Sun 2020

"This information has enabled us to make countless new discoveries about how our nearest star works and its impact on the solar system."

SDO uses three instruments to take images of the Sun every 0.75 seconds.

The Atmospheric Imaging Component alone takes images at 10 different wavelengths of light every 12 seconds.

This 10-year time lapse shows images taken at 17.1 nanometers, an extreme ultraviolet wavelength that reveals the outermost layer of the solar atmosphere, the corona.

By collating the photos every hour, the film condenses the decade of the sun to 61 minutes.

The video shows the increase and decrease in activity that occurs during the Sun's 11-year solar cycle, as well as remarkable events such as transiting planets and volcanic eruptions.

The tailor-made music entitled "Solar Observer" was created by musician Lars Leonhard.

While the SDO keeps looking at the sun, there are moments he misses.

The black frames in the video are caused by the etching of SDO by the earth or the moon while it is flying between the spacecraft and the sun.

A prolonged power outage in 2016 was caused by a temporary problem with the AIA instrument, which was successfully resolved a week later.

The image of the Sun off-center was observed while SDO was calibrating its instruments.

SDO and other NASA missions will continue to observe our Sun in the coming years and provide further knowledge and information about our place in space to protect our astronauts and assets.

Some notable events briefly emerge in this timelapse.

  • June 7, 2011 at 6:20 am - A large prominence eruption erupts from the lower right side of the sun.
  • Gov/10801 12:24 5 June 2012 - Venus passes through the surface of the Sun.
  • Gov/10996 13:06 July 19, 2012 - A complex magnetic field and plasma cycle forms and lasts for several hours.
  • Gov/11168 13:50 August 31, 2012 - The most iconic eruption of this solar cycle erupts from the lower left side of the Sun.
  • Gov/11095 20:25 29 September 29, 2013 - The prominent eruption forms a long "canyon" which is then covered by a plasma ring.
  • Gov/11379 26:39 Oct. 8, 2014 - The active region on the sun looks like a jack-o'-lantern, just in time for Halloween.
  • Gov/11711 36:18 May 9, 2016 - Mercury crosses the surface of the sun.
  • Smaller and further away than Venus, it is hard to make out.
  • Gov/12235 43:20 July 5, 2017 - A large sunspot swarm crosses the surface of the Sun for two weeks.
  • Gov/12105 44:20 September 6, 2017-The strongest flare sequence in this solar cycle crackles for days and reaches its peak at X9.3.
  • Gov/12706 57:38 November 11, 2019 - Mercury traverses the Sun again for SDO. The next transit will not take place until 2032.

Is the Sun Cooling 2020?

Scientists believe that the sun has been at its weakest for the past 100 years or so in 2019, known as the solar minimum. 2020 is the start of the 25th cycle. But curiously, even in 2020, solar activity as measured by the number of solar spots at any given time is still very low.

The solar minimum is expected to be reached in 2019-2020, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

In 2020 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Solar Cycle 25 Forecast Panel narrowed the range further. The solar minimum between cycles 24 and 25 would occur in April 2020.