February 18, 2010: Last week, on Feb. 11th, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) lifted off from Cape Canaveral on a five-year mission to study the sun. Researchers have called the advanced spacecraft the "crown jewel" of NASA's heliophysics fleet. SDO will beam back IMAX-quality images of solar explosions and peer beneath the stellar surface to see the sun's magnetic dynamo in action.
SDO is designed to amaze—and it got off to a good start.
"The observatory did something amazing before it even left the atmosphere," says SDO project scientist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Moments after launch, SDO's Atlas V rocket flew past a sundog hanging suspended in the blue Florida sky and, with a rippling flurry of shock waves, destroyed it. Click on the image below to launch a video recorded by 13-year-old Anna Herbst at NASA's Banana River viewing site—and don't forget to turn up the volume to hear the reaction of the crowd.
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