Feeds

NASA's Sun-gazing sat grounded

Wind delays launch of Solar Dynamics Observatory

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

NASA has cancelled today's planned lift-off of its Solar Dynamics Observatory due to unfavourable wind conditions at Cape Canaveral.

When it does finally get off the ground, hopefully tomorrow, SDO's "unprecedented mission will study the Sun and its dynamic behavior". Over five years, it will "determine how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated, structured, and converted into violent solar events like turbulent solar wind, solar flares, and Coronal Mass Ejections".

This, the agency elaborates, will enhance our understanding of "space weather", and allow us to "accommodate or mitigate" the effects of solar activity, which can include knocking out satellites, affecting power grids and disrupting television and telecoms systems.

Artist's impression of SDO. Pic: NASA

SDO is packing three instruments: the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA); the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE); and the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI).

AIA is tasked with grabbing hi-res pics of "different layers in the sun’s atmosphere to further understand how changing solar magnetic fields release the energy that heats the solar corona and creates flares".

It will "snap a full disk image in 8 wavelengths every 10 seconds" at a resolution of 4096 x 4096 px, or "almost IMAX quality", using four telescopes each capable of discerning detail as small as 725 km.

EVE is designed to gauge the sun’s extreme ultraviolet (EUV) brightness as often as "every ten seconds", and will provide space weather forecasters with "warnings of communications and navigation outages" provoked by sudden EUV surges.

HMI will measure both "sound waves reverberating inside the Sun to build up a picture of the interior", and "the strength and direction of magnetic fields emerging on the Sun’s surface". It will offer the "first rapid cadence measurements of the strength and direction of the solar magnetic field over the visible disk of the Sun".

The collected data will be dispatched to a dedicated ground station at New Mexico's White Sands Complex at a rate of roughly 1.5 terabytes a day, the equivalent of "downloading half a million songs each day", NASA helpfully explains.

SDO will operate in an inclined geosynchronous orbit at the "outer edges of Earth's radiation belt", around 36,000 km out. The orbit allows "nearly continuous, high data-rate contact" with the ground station, but will involve two annual "Earth shadow" eclipses, of 2-3 weeks each, and "three lunar shadow events each year", the agency notes.

NASA has its main SDO site here, a fact sheet here (pdf), handy guide here (pdf) and press kit here (pdf). ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.