Thu, 11 Feb 2010 07:40:03 AM EST
Our nearest star is the dominating force behind Earth's climate -- and space weather throughout the solar system. Powerful solar flares, fierce coronal mass ejections and other intense solar events can disrupt communications and power systems on Earth, and threaten astronauts living and working outside the relative protection of our atmosphere.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory is embarking on a five-year mission to investigate -- in unprecedented detail -- the energy processes driving the sun's stormy activity. The 6,555-pound spacecraft will return 1.5 terabytes of data every day -- equal to half a million downloaded songs -- and provide detailed images of near-IMAX-quality high resolution. The mission is the first of NASA's Living With a Star Program.