Image description: Launched in 1995, and still operational today, the Naval Research Laboratory- led LASCO instrument routinely captures spectacular images of violent solar eruptions (here, the Sun is represented by the white circle). These explosive events, when Earth-directed, can disrupt power grids, navigation and communications for extended periods of time, and have been known to permanently disable satellites.
LASCO has seen over 13,000 solar coronal mass ejections in its 16+ years of operation, helping scientists study where and when these events occur and how they will impact us on Earth.
The LASCO instrument has also helped discover over 2,300 comets through the very popular Sungrazing Comets citizen science project. Amazingly, the majority of these comets have been found by amateur astronomers and enthusiasts who search through LASCO images from the comfort of their own home. Anyone can help discover comets — all you need is an Internet connection and plenty of free time!
Image courtesy of NASA/ESA/NRL