Feeds

Sun-gazing sat heads for the heavens

Solar Dynamics Observatory lifts off

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) blasted off today at 15:23 GMT from Cape Canaveral following an aborted launch yesterday due to unfavourable wind conditions.

The SDO launch. Pic: NASASDO was carried aloft by an Atlas V rocket (see pic) en route to its final inclined geosynchronous orbit at around 36,000 km from Earth. Once there, it will set about its five-year mission to "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".

NASA hopes SDO will enhance our understanding of "space weather", and allow Earth to anticipate and "mitigate" the effects of solar activity, which can include knocking out satellites, affecting power grids and disrupting television and telecoms systems.

SDO programme scientist Lika Guhathakurta said: "It is going to revolutionise our view of the Sun and it will reveal how solar activity affects our planet, and help us anticipate what lies ahead.

"It will observe the Sun faster, deeper and in greater detail than any previous observations, breaking barriers of time, scale and clarity that have long blocked progress in solar physics."

Artist's impression of SDO. Pic: NASA

SDO has a trio of instruments - the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE), and the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI).

AIA will take 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" with a resolution of 4096 x 4096 px, or "almost IMAX quality". It has 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. The instrument 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 provide the "first rapid cadence measurements of the strength and direction of the solar magnetic field over the visible disk of the Sun".

SDO's data will be sent to a dedicated ground station at New Mexico's White Sands Complex at a daily rate of around 1.5 terabytes, the equivalent of "downloading half a million songs each day", as NASA puts it.

NASA 's main SDO site is here. There's also a fact sheet here (pdf), handy guide here (pdf) and press kit here (pdf). ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
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?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Asteroid's SHOCK DINO MURDER SPREE just bad luck - boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
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.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.