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

Lockheed Martin Solar X-Ray Imager on NOAA GOES-13(N) Spacecraft Sees First Light

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Turbulent "space weather" can affect radio communication on Earth, induce currents in electric power grids and long distance pipelines, cause navigational errors in magnetic guidance systems, upset satellite circuitry and expose astronauts to increased radiation.

A prototype SXI was developed, tested, and calibrated by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in conjunction with GSFC, NOAA, and the Air Force, and launched aboard the GOES-M satellite in July 2001 . The newSXI on GOES 13 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. In addition, more sophisticated computer control allows SXI to react automatically to changing solar conditions.

SXI will observe solar flares, coronal mass ejections, coronal holes and active 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 also examine 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's corona, acquiring a full-disk image every minute. The images cover a 42 arc-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 able to detect and locate the occurrence of solar flares. This is the name given tothe 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.


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