Feeds

NASA's Sun-gazing sat grounded

Wind delays launch of Solar Dynamics Observatory

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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). ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
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 for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.