Thinking Tech

NASA 'living with a star' mission yields stunning sun shots

Posting in Environment

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is sending back photos and data from the sun that could tell us a great deal about the earth.

Hot stuff: the reds are 107,540 degrees F., blues and greens are 1,799,540 degrees! F. credit: NASA Heliophysics DivisionA couple of days ago, NASA released the first photos from Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) examining the sun's processes. In the words of the space agency's scientists, this "affect everything that happens back here on earth."

Launched Feb. 11, the SDO is on a five-year mission to understand how the sun impacts earth's  atmospheric chemistry and climate. It will have no less of an impact on the science of the sun as the Hubble Telescope has had on astrophysics, said Richard Fisher in a NASA press statement. He is director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. from a NASA press statement:

"These initial images show a dynamic sun that I had never seen in more than 40 years of solar research. SDO will change our understanding of the sun and its processes, which affect our lives and society. This mission will have a huge impact on science.”

Sending back a terabyte and a half of data every day, SDO will study so-called "space weather" which has disrupted communications since the invention of the telegraph, according to the NASA press statement. It's four telescopes will photograph the sun's surface as well looking beneath it.

Check out the video below that shows some of the experiments (despite its wide berth on the page, I still thought it worthy of appearing here). And follow this link to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's daily Space Weather forecast. Again, from NASA's press statement:

"SDO is the first mission of NASA's Living with a Star Program, or LWS, and the crown jewel in a fleet of NASA missions that study our sun and space environment. The goal of LWS is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society."

In my recent coverage of NASA's exploits, SDO's mission more than even the Hubble's has a tangible connection to understanding earthly phenomena. After all, the sun -- 330,000 times bigger than the speck we call earth - is source of all life as we know it. As the debate rages about NASA's priorities, it's hard to argue with spending money on SDO's mission.

Image: NASA Heliophysics Division

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure