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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 sunís variability and how it produces space weather that affects us on earth
NASA
NASAís 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 sunís 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

Because SDO has no recording system , yet will be collecting so much data, the mission built its own ground station, featuring a pair of dedicated 18-meter ka-band radio antennas, near Las Cruces, N.M. SDO was launched in a geosynchronous orbitómeaning that it will rotate at the same speed as the earthóat the longitude of New Mexico, and inclined 28 degrees from the equator. The satellite always will be directly above and in constant communication with the ground station.

Data will be available to the solar science community of about 2,000 researchers, the space-weather community, educators the public. The data will be stored at several sites. Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif.) will analyze, archive and manage the data from the HMI and AIA instruments; Lockheed Martinís Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory (Palo Alto), will create and serve data products from AIA; and the University of Coloradoís LASP will analyze, archive and manage the EVE data.



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