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Five years of the sun in three minutes

To celebrate the work being done by its Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA has released a video of highlights on the fifth anniversary of its launch.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

On February 11, 2010, NASA launched its Solar Dynamics Observatory -- a spacecraft equipped with sensors, cameras and telescopes all with one mission: an in-depth examination of the star at the centre of our solar system -- the sun.

Since that time, the SDO has been capturing one image almost every second, providing an unprecedented level of insight into the sun's activity -- over 200 million images and 2,600 terabytes of data. Over 2,000 scientific papers have been published based on the observations of the SDO, and even today, it continues to send back vital and fascinating information about the sun.

Solar flares, coronal mass ejections, sunspots, eruptions; the imaging equipment on the observatory has allowed researchers to see how these evolve and what causes them. Photographs in different wavelengths have allowed researchers to study the sun's plasma, temperatures, magnetic fields and activity, and atmosphere and corona.

To celebrate the work that has been achieved thanks to the SDO, NASA has released two videos. The first is a timelapse, speeding up five years of SDO data into just under three minutes. The second, longer video is a showreel of highlights -- sunspots and CMEs and flares, in the various wavelengths that allow scientists to analyse the heat and light thereof.

"This mission has touched us on many levels; it evokes a sense of wonder when we see these beautiful images," said SDO program scientist Lika Guhathakurta. "It stokes our curiosity and it connects us personally to the deepest mysteries -- from the warmth we feel on our skin when we walk outside on a sunny day to the distant reaches of the cosmos."

Watch in HD for the best effect. Happy birthday, Solar Dynamics Observatory!