The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), NASA’s Sun-gazing satellite, pulled off a 360-degree somersault turn on its axis on July 5 and it’s managed to capture some pretty “dizzying data".
The whole spin was a 7-hour long maneuver, during which the SDO's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument took images in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths every 12 seconds.
As NASA explains, not only does this spin create some incredible images, it also helps its Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager instrument take precise measurements of the Sun’s outer edge. The Sun is not perfectly spherical, which you can just about pick up from the moving GIF, so measuring this is a tricky task. However, using this technique, researchers are able to gather a surprisingly more accurate reading. Through understanding the shape and undulations of this outer edge, scientists are hoping it could help us predict solar activity over the Sun’s 11-year cycle and understand what drives the Sun’s astronomical expulsions of radiation, which can pose a threat to satellites.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng