Artificial Intelligence Helps Improve NASA’s Eyes on the Sun

A group of researchers is using artificial intelligence techniques to calibrate some of NASA’s images of the Sun, helping improve the data that scientists use for solar research. The new technique was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on April 13, 2021.

A solar telescope has a tough job. Staring at the Sun takes a harsh toll, with a constant bombardment by a never-ending stream of solar particles and intense sunlight. Over time, the sensitive lenses and sensors of solar telescopes begin to degrade. To ensure the data such instruments send back is still accurate, scientists recalibrate periodically to make sure they understand just how the instrument is changing.

Launched in 2010, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, has provided high-definition images of the Sun for over a decade. Its images have given scientists a detailed look at various solar phenomena that can spark space weather and affect our astronauts and technology on Earth and in space. The Atmospheric Imagery Assembly, or AIA, is one of two imaging instruments on SDO and looks constantly at the Sun, taking images across 10 wavelengths of ultraviolet light every 12 seconds. This creates a wealth of information of the Sun like no other, but – like all Sun-staring instruments – AIA degrades over time, and the data needs to be frequently calibrated.

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