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Earth Matters

The Sun and the Television

January 28th, 2013 by Mike Carlowicz

Today we have a re-post from one of our colleagues on the sunny side of NASA. Karen C. Fox is a writer for NASA’s Heliophysics division.

A new kind of television recently made headlines at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show: Ultra High Definition TV. With four times as many pixels as a current high definition (HD) TV, viewers reported being impressed with how crisp and vibrant the pictures appear.

This comes as no surprise to scientists who study the Sun using NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Its Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) and Helioseismic Magnetic Imager (HMI) together capture an image every second that is twice as large as what the ultra high-def screens can display. Such detailed pictures show features on the Sun that are as small as 200 miles across, helping researchers observe what causes giant eruptions known as coronal mass ejections (CME), which can travel toward Earth and interfere with our satellites.

One concern about the new TVs is that there’s not yet enough content to make use of the opulent amount of pixels. SDO can help with that. As of December 2012, the solar observatory had captured 100 million images, which — if watched at a standard video rate of 30 frames per second — would mean a viewer could watch eight hours of Sun movies a day for almost four months.

For HD imagery from NASA’s SDO mission, visit:

One Response to “The Sun and the Television”

  1. Nancy Cooper says:

    Just in time for Super Bowl Sunday!