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Marvel at NASA's mesmerizing 3-years-of-sun-shots video

NASA puts together a greatest hits collection of images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory over the last three years and turns out an awe-inspiring video.

SDO sun image
The sun's surface is an active place.
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

We've always been told not to stare at the sun, but NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has been doing just that for the last three years. Since it started operations, the SDO has taken a shot of the sun using its Atmospheric Imaging Assembly every 12 seconds on 10 different wavelengths, giving scientists an unprecedented look at the shifting moods and surface of our nearest star.

NASA put together a 3-minute video of the sun's last three years and set it to lovely music. The result is a yellow, fluctuating, spinning globe, spitting out flares over time. It's nearly hypnotizing.

Things start off fairly calmly, but you can see as the activity level of the sun's surface ramps up over time. The SDO is documenting the sun's run to solar maximum, a peak in solar activity that occurs during the star's regular 11-year cycle. The video moves along at the rate of two images per day.

More than 700,000 viewers have already gotten up close and personal with the sun's recent history on YouTube. Now is the time to call your mother and say, "Mom, I'm staring at the sun! And it's beautiful."