Solar Dynamics Observatory: Staring at the Sun

Space.com | 7/12/2018 | Staff
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The Solar Dynamics Observatory is a NASA spacecraft launched in 2010, in time to catch sunspot and solar activity at its peak in 2013 as a part of the sun's 11-year cycle. The satellite continuously records high-definition views of the sun's atmosphere in detail never seen previously.

In addition to simply observing the sun, NASA is using this observatory to get better at predicting solar activity. SDO aims to provide insights on the structure of the sun's magnetic field, as well as how energy is transferred from the sun into space.

SDO - NASA - Star - Program - Probes

SDO is the first of NASA's Living With a Star program probes. The sun is an invaluable source of energy and warmth for the planet; however, its variability can at time cause problems. A large solar storm has the capability to knock out power lines or communications satellites, for example. The program's major goal, therefore, is to understand why the sun's energy varies and how it can affect Earth.

One instrument on board is the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly, which can record pictures of the sun in IMAX resolution. With high-definition images available in most of the 10 available wavelengths every 10 seconds, it allows scientists to watch over the corona and see any changes — no matter what temperature. The continual observations were expected to yield more information on the causes of solar flares and coronal eruptions.

Instruments - Helioseismic - Magnetic - Imager - Currents

The other instruments are the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager, which can track electric currents and magnetic activity in the corona, and the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment, which monitors ultraviolet solar emissions.

The spacecraft originally had a five-year life span, but has lasted beyond an 11-year solar cycle, and was still performing well as of mid-2018.

SDO - Satellite - Space - Feb - Atlas

SDO cost $850 million to construct and launch. The satellite was lofted into space Feb. 11, 2010, aboard an Atlas V rocket from...
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