The satellites and space craft that we launch to observe our world are our eyes and ears in space. Advances in satellites pointed at the Sun have been enormous over the last decade. The latest satellite gathering solar information is NASA’s SDO. Chances are you have seen footage produced by this high-tech observer, all of the solar flare footage used by media channels lately have been thanks to NASA’s SDO satellite. The quality of the footage is incredible, only matched by the sheer amount of information this satellite is sending back to earth, over a terabyte of data a day. The data that this satellite collects will help us understand what drives our most important neighbour, the Sun.
After SDO’s first year of operation NASA released a compilation of jaw dropping footage of the sun. ‘First Light’ was the original footage released by NASA, this footage was mixed down -edited- into the punchy little two-minute ‘Haunting Images from the Sun’ by SpaceRip, infamous science documentary re-releaser on YouTube. SDO has since produced even more spectacular footage – see video below ‘Sun Sends Out X6.9 Class Solar Flare’, the monster flare occurred August 9, 2011.
Assembled at the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland and launched February 11, 2010 from Cape Canaveral SDO was initially placed in low Earth orbit. Eventually it will slowly be maneuvered into it’s final circular geosynchronous orbit -stays facing the sun while the Earth turns- at an altitude of 36,000 km, giving SDO a permanent view of the Sun. The data collected by SDO is part of the ‘Living with a Star’ program which aims to understand the sun and it’s influence on the Earth, the Earth-Sun relationship.
Building on the technology of the previous solar observing satellite SOHO, SDO improves on SOHO‘s instruments and adds new sensors to the study of the sun. Three instrument suites are onboard for observing; Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) , Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) making SDO the most advanced solar observatory ever. These three sets of sensors are each recording a different perspective of the sun in real-time, HMI listens to the Suns magnetic fields while EVE and AIA watch and photograph the Sun’s outer layers. The sensors collect and send back over a Terabyte of data per day. Once the data is received at the Goddard flight control centre it’s stored and served up to various research facilities. Individually each of the sensors produces spectacular images, together they are stunning. Read the full article »»»»