An Analysis of Spikes in Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) Data

Peter R. Young*, Nicholeen M. Viall, Michael S. Kirk, Emily I. Mason, Lakshmi Pradeep Chitta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) returns high-resolution images of the solar atmosphere in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelength channels. The images are processed on the ground to remove intensity spikes arising from energetic particles hitting the instrument, and the despiked images are provided to the community. In this article, a three-hour series of images from the 171 Å channel obtained on 28 February 2017 was studied to investigate how often the despiking algorithm gave false positives caused by compact brightenings in the solar atmosphere. The latter were identified through spikes appearing in the same detector pixel for three consecutive frames. 1096 examples were found from the 900 image frames. These “three-spikes” were assigned to 126 dynamic solar features, and it is estimated that the three-spike method identifies 19% of the total number of features affected by despiking. For any ten-minute sequence of AIA 171 Å images there are around 37 solar features that have their intensity modified by despiking. The features are found in active regions, quiet Sun, and coronal holes and, in relation to solar surface area, there is a greater proportion within coronal holes. In 96% of the cases, the despiked structure is a compact brightening with a size of two arcsec or less, and the remaining 4% have narrow, elongated structures. By applying an EUV burst detection algorithm, we found that 96% of the events could be classified as EUV bursts. None of the spike events are rendered invisible by the AIA processing pipeline, but the total intensity over an event’s lifetime can be reduced by up to 67%. Users are recommended to always restore the original intensities in AIA data when studying short-lived or rapidly evolving features that exhibit fine-scale structure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number181
Number of pages21
JournalSolar Physics
Issue number12
Early online date17 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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