Monday, January 25, 2010

New Space Telescope to Target Sun Storms

While astronomers gaze at stars farther and farther out in the heavens, some scientists want to take a closer look at the star closest to us: the sun.

NASA plans to launch a new spacecraft, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), to take the most detailed observations ever of the sun to understand its complex weather and storms.

"The sun changes every time we look at it, [it] is never the same," said Dean Pesnell, SDO project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., in a Thursday briefing.

Scientists hope data from the new probe will help them understand changes in the sun's magnetic field, which gets more and less active on an 11-year cycle, sending out periodic flares of charged particles that can disrupt technology on Earth.

The $808 million spacecraft is slated to launch Feb. 9 at 10:36 a.m. EST (1536 GMT) atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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Article By Clara Moskowitz Staff Writer
posted: 21 January 2010
05:19 pm ET