Clearest ever pictures of the Sun returned from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory
13 May 2010



UK scientists are celebrating after the return of the first images from NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) mission.

A ultraviolet image of the Sun taken by SDO with colours representing different gas temperatures.

​​​SDO images of flares and their associated waves across the Sun


They show, with unprecedented clarity, detailed images of the Sun that will help gain a better understanding of the Sun’s disruptive influence on services such as telecommunications.

SDO was launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on 11th February 2010. Its unique orbit allows high resolution images to be recorded every three quarters of a second, providing in-depth information about the Sun’s complex magnetic fields and space weather generated by solar activity.

Professor Richard Harrison from the Space Science and Technology Department at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory said; “To see five years of hard work from scientists and engineers at RAL as well as other UK institutions come to fruition is extremely rewarding. To the casual observer, these images are no more than a series of pretty pictures, but they reveal dramatic detail to help us study the processes in the Sun’s atmosphere that can ultimately have impacts on Earth”.

Members of the public can also do their bit to help track solar storms by looking at the Solar Stormwatch website (link opens in a new window) and getting involved in an award winning project involving UK led instruments aboard the NASA STEREO spacecraft, to spot solar storms and track their progress across space towards the Earth.

Engineers from the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) built the electronics systems for the six cameras on two of SDO’s instruments. Under contract from, Lockheed Martin, they developed the electronics boxes which control and read out the data from SDO’s cameras.

UK institutions involved in SDO are:

  • STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory - provision of camera electronics boxes and SDO scientific co-investigator team
  • Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL), University College London - SDO scientific co-investigator team
  • University of Sheffield - SDO scientific co-investigator team
  • e2v Ltd - provision of CCDs
  • University of Central Lancashire - SDO UK data pipeline

Further information:

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries