Solar Dynamics Observatory

SDO Helps Measure Magnetic Fields on Sun Surface

A subset of data that helps map out the sun’s magnetic fields was recently released from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Observations that measure the strength and direction of magnetic fields on the solar surface, known as vector magnetograms, play a crucial role in understanding how those fields change over time and trigger giant eruptions off the surface of the sun such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Collecting the information needed to make vector magnetograms is one of several tasks performed by SDO’s Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI), an instrument led by a team at Stanford University. HMI has been collecting data since May of 2010, providing scientific data on the strength of the sun’s magnetic field and the sound waves moving around inside the Sun. HMI relies on interpreting the way light is affected as it travels through the fields in order to measure them from afar.