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The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will provide a new eye on the sun that will deliver solar images with 10 times better resolution than high-definition television. This mission will zoom in on the cause of severe space weather—solar activity such as sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections.
Space weather can pose a threat to astronauts as well as to aircraft crews flying over Earths northern and southern polar regions—and thats just the tip of the iceberg. Satellite communications, navigation systems, and electrical power to our homes can all be disrupted by magnetic storms triggered by solar activity.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is the first mission to be launched for NASAs Living With a Star (LWS) program. The goal of the LWS program is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to effectively address those aspects of the sun and solar system that directly affect life and society.
This mission was developed and will be managed by NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. SDO is a 5-year mission that will determine how the suns magnetic field is generated, structured, and converted into violent solar events like turbulent solar wind, solar flares, and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs).
The solar wind is a continuous stream of electrically charged particles that flow from the sun and fill the solar system with charged particles and magnetic fields. Solar flares are explosions in the suns atmosphere, with the largest equal to billions of one-megaton nuclear bombs.
CMEs are eruptions from the solar atmosphere that release billions of tons of solar material into interplanetary space at millions of miles per hour. All these phenomena are collectively called space weather.
By improving our understanding of the solar activity that powers severe space weather, SDO will enable us to improve predictions of solar storms and provide information necessary to protect our technological systems.
SDO will observe the sun, from its deep interior to the outermost layers of solar atmosphere, at the highest ever time cadence. SDO will snap a full disk image in 8 wavelengths every 10 seconds. This rapid cadence led to placing the satellite into an inclined geosynchronous orbit.
This allows for a continuous, high-data-rate contact with a dedicated ground station at the White Sands Complex in southern New Mexico. SDO will send down about 1.5 terabytes of data per day, equivalent to downloading half a million songs each day.
SDOs spatial resolution gives it a tremendous advantage over earlier missions. All solar images will be 4096 pixels x 4096 pixels—almost IMAX quality—providing details of the sun and its features that have rarely been seen before.http://www.nasa.gov/sdohttp://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov