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NASA unveils new images of the sun

By Sean O'Key, CNN
  • NASA released new images taken by their Solar Dynamics Observatory
  • Scientist: "SDO is our 'Hubble for the sun'"
  • NASA plans to have SDO in operation for the next five years

(CNN) -- Your mother always said not to look directly at the sun. In this case, you may want to make an exception.

NASA released stunning new images captured by their Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, a space telescope designed to study our sun.

"SDO is our 'Hubble for the sun,'" says Lika Guhathakurta, a NASA scientist, in a statement released Wednesday. NASA says SDO will play a critical role in helping scientists understand our nearest star more thoroughly, as well as its effect on our planet.

Since its launch on February 11, SDO has been moving into a geosynchronous orbit and bringing its on-board instruments online. The images unveiled at Wednesday's press conference are among the first images sent back by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, the observatory's main telescope array.

One thing that makes SDO unique it its ability to see the big picture -- literally. Rather than just focusing on a section of the sun, the observatory is able to monitor the entire sun in what it calls the "full disk" view.

NASA plans to have SDO in operation for the next five years, and says the observatory has enough fuel on board to continue to operate for an additional five years after it completes its initial science mission.