Looking at the Sun


It has been a very hot week across the U.S.  To launch summer, the U.S. Postal Service issued a set of stamps with NASA views of the Sun from their Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) which was a spacecraft launched in 2010. It has been collecting science data and its two imaging instruments provide complementary views of the Sun. (If you’re wondering about the colors shown here,  see the video at the bottom.)

More than a decade of SDO observations has provided hundreds of millions of images of our neighboring star as it orbits Earth.

The stamps feature 10 images from SDO and most of these images are in extreme ultraviolet light, which is invisible to human eyes.

Here are a few images in motion that are used on the stamps.

The bright flash on the Sun’s upper right is a powerful solar flare. Solar flares are bursts of light and energy that can disturb the part of Earth’s atmosphere where GPS and radio signals travel.

This golden view of the “active Sun” highlights the many active regions that are areas of intense and complex magnetic fields on the Sun – linked to sunspots – that are prone to erupting with solar flares or explosions of material called coronal mass ejections.

This cool-toned image shows a dark area capping the northern polar region of the Sun. This is a coronal hole, a magnetically open area on the Sun from which high-speed solar wind escapes into space. Such high-speed solar wind streams can spark magnificent auroral displays on Earth when they collide with our planet’s magnetic field.

Stick some Sun on your mail this summer.