With yesterday’s successful launch of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), it’s time for some background on the new satellite’s mission.
Essentially, the SDO is a collection of three instruments that will take images of the entire solar disk in unprecedented detail — about ten times greater than that achieved by HD TVs. The images will be taken once every ten seconds and sent 24/7, relayed to twin dedicated satellite dishes in New Mexico. The data stream generated by the extremely high resolution images will total an estimated 1.5 terabytes every day.
1. One device uses four cameras, each one tuned to a temperature-related wave length. The resulting images show what’s happening at different layers of the sun.
2. Another instrument measures sound waves inside the sun, allowing scientists to follow interior movement — just like an ultrasound device forms a picture of a baby inside the womb.
3. The last instrument captures images of the sun’s extreme ultraviolet radiation. These are used to investigate “space weather” — the flow of radiation that affects communication signals here on Earth.
Electricity to power all of these devices comes from solar panels (where else?).
Below is a short video introduction to the SDO produced by NASA.