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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 09:49 AM CDT

Mission (Not) Impossible

Five-year Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite will investigate causes of the sun’s variability and how it produces space weather that affects us on earth
NASA
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which was launched in February, is sending back high-resolution images of the sun. SDO will help scientists learn how solar activity is created and how space weather results from that activity. NASA says it will measure the sun’s interior, magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona, and the irradiance. (Images courtesy NASA unless otherwise noted)
The Earth is superimposed on a solar eruptive prominence as seen in extreme UV light (March 30, 2010) to give a sense of how large these solar eruptions are.
As the arcing loops above an active region began to rotate into a profile view, SDO captured the dynamic, magnetic struggles taking place. Particles spiraling along magnetic field lines trace their paths. Magnetic forces in the active region are connecting, breaking apart, and reconnecting. These images were taken in extreme ultraviolet light.
NASA/ESA/Williams College Eclipse Expedition
On July 11, the new moon passed directly in front of the sun, causing a total solar eclipse in the South Pacific. In this image, the solar eclipse is shown in gray and white from a photo provided by the Williams College Expedition to Easter Island and was embedded with an image of the sun's outer corona taken by the Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) on the SOHO spacecraft and shown in red false color. LASCO uses a disk to blot out the bright sun and the inner corona so that the faint outer corona can be monitored and studied. The dark silhouette of the moon was covered with an image of the sun taken in extreme ultraviolet light at about the same time by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly on the Solar Dynamics Observatory.
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By Barry Hochfelder

Shortly after AIA began transmitting on March 30, scientists observed a large eruptive prominence on the sun’s edge, followed by a filament eruption a third of the way across the star’s disk from the eruption.

“Even small events restructure large regions of the solar surface,” says Lockheed Martin’s Title. “It’s been possible to recognize the size of these regions because of the combination of spatial, temporal and area coverage provided by AIA.”

AIA has observed numerous very small flares that generate magnetic instabilities and waves with clearly observed effects over a substantial fraction of the solar surface. The instrument captures full-disk images in eight different temperature bands that span 10,000 to 36 million degrees Fahrenheit, allowing scientists to observe entire events that are difficult to see by looking in a single temperature band, at a slower rate or over a more limited field of view.

Data is delivered to the science investigating teams at the astonishing rate of 1.5 terabytes each day. “That’s 55 megabits per second for HMI, 67 for AIA and 7 for EVE,” says Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center. “That’s all compressed data. Images are created as individual files from telemetry and then into the data base. We don’t stream videos, but we combined [the images] into videos on the ground.”

He adds that the project has a planned lifetime of 5 years. “There are no consumables on board except propellant, and estimates are that we have 900 years of propellant.”



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