Feeds

NASA's Sun-gazing sat grounded

Wind delays launch of Solar Dynamics Observatory

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

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). ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.