Feeds

STEREO blasts off from Cape Canaveral

At last!

Security for virtualized datacentres

NASA's twin solar observatory, STEREO, launched successfully last night, blasting off from Cape Canaveral just before 9pm, local time. The launch was originally scheduled for August, but was put back several times.

The STEREO mission (short for Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatories) will provide the raw material researchers need to build the first ever three dimensional images of the sun.

"The stunning solar views the two observatories will send back to Earth will help scientists get a better understanding of the sun and its activity than we've ever been able to obtain from the ground or any of our other missions," said Nick Chrissotimos, STEREO project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre.

The mission is comprised of two virtually identical golf-cart sized satellites. They were sent on diverging paths orbiting the sun, NASA confirmed, just 63 minutes after reaching orbit. NASA also confirmed that the solar panels that will power each observatory had unfurled without any problems.

The craft are designed to study solar activity. They will be watching for solar flares and coronal mass ejections, the huge eruptions of solar material than can play havoc with Earth and space-based equipment. Scientists hope that better monitoring of the sun's surface will help scientists spot the early warning signs of such events.

Current observatories can study these eruptions and ejections, but can only do so in one dimension. STEREO will be better able to track material heading to Earth because it will have two views of any eruption or flare.

This also means it will give Earth more warning of incoming floods of solar material. Satellites in orbit can be put into safe mode in time to avoid being overloaded, and power grids on Earth can also be protected from the solar storms.

Over the next two weeks, NASA engineers will make sure the STEREO craft are working as they should. They will fly to a point just beyond the moon's orbit, where after three months, their orbits will be synchronised to encounter the moon, to set the craft on their very different orbital paths. It is the first NASA mission to use the lunar gravity in this way.

The "A" observatory will use the moon's gravity to redirect it to an orbit "ahead" of Earth. The "B" observatory will encounter the moon again for a second swing-by about one month later to redirect its position "behind" Earth.

It is this offset between the observatories, just like the offset between our eyes, that will make it possible to build three dimensional pictures of the sun. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
Moment of truth for LOHAN's servos: Our US allies are poised for final test flight
Will Vulture 2 freeze at altitude? Edge Research Lab to find out
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.