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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Lockheed Martin Solar X-Ray Imager to Be Launched on NOAA GOES-N Spacecraft

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A prototype SXI was developed, tested, and calibrated by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in conjunction with GSFC, NOAA, andthe Air Force, and launched aboard the GOES-M satellite in July 2001 . The new SXI on GOES-N has a factor of two greater spatial resolution than the prototype, and like some high-end home video cameras, it has active internal jitter compensation that provides a stable picture even when the spacecraft ismoving. Additionally, more sophisticated computer control allows SXI to react automatically to changing solar conditions.

SXI will observe solar flares, coronal mass ejections, coronal holes andactive regions in the X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum from 6 to 60 A (Angstroms). These features are the dominant sources of disturbances inspace weather that lead to, for example, geomagnetic storms. SXI will alsoexamine flare properties, newly emerging active regions, and X-ray bright points on the Sun.

SXI will provide continuous, near real-time observation of the Sun'scorona, acquiring a full-disk image every minute. The images cover a 42arc-minute field of view with five arc-second pixels.

The Sun, as viewed from Earth, is approximately 32 arc-minutes in diameter. By recording solar images every minute, NOAA observers will be ableto detect and locate the occurrence of solar flares. This is the name given to the explosive releases of vast amounts of magnetic energy in the solar atmosphere. Since scientists are not yet able to predict the occurrence, magnitude or location of solar flares, it is necessary to continually observe the Sun to know when they are happening.

When a flare erupts, it throws out large clouds of ionized, orelectrically charged, gas. A small fraction of the cloud is very energetic and can reach the Earth within a few minutes to hours of the flare being observed. These energetic particles pose a hazard to both astronauts and spacecraft.


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