A new technique created by Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, depicts the 12-hour history of cooling and heating at a particular spot on the sun. The images produced are reminiscent of a van Gogh painting. Image credit: NASA
Left: This image was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) on June 19, 2010, the image shows the area in the wavelength of 171 Angstroms, which has here been colorized in yellow. Credit: NASA/SDO
Right: This visualization, based on the image on the left, uses specific colors to describe which areas on the sun cooled or heated over a 12-hour period.
To look at the corona from a fresh perspective, Viall created a new kind of picture, making use of the high resolution provided by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). SDO’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) provides images of the sun in 10 different wavelengths, each approximately corresponding to a single temperature of material. Therefore, when one looks at the wavelength of 171 Angstroms, for example, one sees all the material in the sun’s atmosphere that is a million degrees Kelvin. By looking at an area of the sun in different wavelengths, one can get a sense of how different swaths of material change temperature. If an area seems bright in a wavelength that shows a hotter temperature an hour before it becomes bright in a wavelength that shows a cooler temperature, one can gather information about how that region has changed over time.