Feeds

NASA's Sun-gazing sat grounded

Wind delays launch of Solar Dynamics Observatory

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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). ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
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.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
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.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.