Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spacecraft Reveals Small Solar Events Have Large Scale Effects

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, has allowed scientists for the first time to comprehensively view the dynamic nature of storms on the sun. Solar storms have been recognized as a cause of technological problems on Earth since the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century.

The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), one of three instruments aboard SDO, allowed scientists to discover that even minor solar events are never truly small scale. Shortly after AIA opened its doors on March 30, scientists observed a large eruptive prominence on the sun's edge, followed by a filament eruption a third of the way across the star's disk from the eruption.

"Even small events restructure large regions of the solar surface," said Alan Title, AIA principal investigator at Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, Calif. "It's been possible to recognize the size of these regions because of the combination of spatial, temporal and area coverage provided by AIA."


» SDO AAS Press Briefing Materials

Monday, May 24, 2010

SDO is the Astronomy Picture of the Day - May 22, 2010

Dark Filament of the Sun

Explanation: Suspended by magnetic fields above a solar active region this dark filament stretches over 40 earth-diameters. The ominous structure appears to be frozen in time near the Sun's edge, but solar filaments are unstable and often erupt. The detailed scene was captured on May 18 in extreme ultraviolet light by cameras on board the Solar Dynamics Observatory. While the cooler plasma of the filament looks dark, hotter, brighter plasma below traces magnetic field lines emerging from the active region. When seen arcing above the edge of the Sun, filaments actually look bright against the dark background of space and are called prominences.

Credit: NASA / Goddard / SDO AIA Team
APOD Website

Friday, May 21, 2010

A new media piece featuring SDO

KQED, Northern California Public Broadcasting (NCPB), has produced a very good piece on SDO titled, "Journey to the Sun"

Video Summary:

Scientists at Stanford University and Lockheed Martin are playing pivotal roles in a nearly billion-dollar NASA mission to explore the sun. A spacecraft launched in early 2010 is obtaining IMAX-like images of the sun every second of the day, generating more data than any NASA mission in history.

Monday, May 10, 2010

SDO Day 89: Our Next Poem

We have had haikus and sonnets written about the commissioning phase. Now a First Light poem, written by Stuart Atkinson about the prominence eruption on March 30, 2010.

First Light...
And at last, the secret of our solar system's star has been revealed:
Concealed beneath its brightly shimmering, ever-shifting shells
Of ancient hydrogen a mighty dragon lies; planet-sized
Eyes flashing with photon fire, riding the great plasma tides
Boiling up from Sol's deep core, it roars in raw delight,
Feeding on the brutal fusion light throbbing beneath its feet...
Hiding in the Sun's dark heart it bathes in nuclear fire,
Revelling in its fury, rolling in it, each beat of its wings
Sending great waves of energy slamming up into the
Chromosphere to ripple and roil across Sol's surface
In tsunamis of atomic fire, to the amazement of those watching,
Wide-eyed, on Faraday's far-away Earth...
But these images reveal the dragon is not alone;
The Sun's firestorm fields clearly have shielded
Our prying eyes from flocks of phoenixes flying
In the dragon's wake. Each time a starfirebird bursts
Through the seething surface of our star we see
A glorious prominence leaping into space;
Every feathered, towering arch traces out the path
Of a phoenix's graceful rise and fall.
Each time one manages to break free
Of the Sun's greedy gravity we see a
Fiery red banner billow out, tatter and tear,
Flapping away like it had never been there...
© Stuart Atkinson 2010

Astronomy Picture of the Day - 2010 May 10


Large Eruptive Prominence Movie from SDO
Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO AIA Team

Explanation: Sometimes part of the Sun can just explode into space. These explosions might occur as powerful solar flares, coronal mass ejections, or comparatively tame eruptive solar prominences. Pictured above is one of the largest solar prominence eruptions yet observed, one associated with a subsequent coronal mass ejection. The prominence erupted last month and was recorded by several Sun-sensing instruments, including the recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The above time lapse sequence was captured by SDO and occurred over a few hours. In recent months, our Sun has becoming increasingly active, following a few years of an unusually dormant solar minimum. Over the next few years our Sun is expected to reach solar maximum and exhibit a dramatic increase in sunspots and all types of solar explosions.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

SDO Day 83: EVE Calibration Rocket Launch

Check out the launch of the EVE calibration rocket launch at http://lasp.colorado.edu/rocket/rocket_movies.html. It shows the countdown and the rocket flying away.

Some cool things to see in the on-board aft-viewing camera (time is from the payload clock timer) :
8:45 launch and spinup
10:02: yo-yo despin
10:05: ejection of yo-yo despin cables
10:10: Black Brandt 2nd stage falling away toward Earth
10:12: Shutter door with crush bumper opening
10:16: Switch to nose-viewing camera
10:20: Nose cone ejection and seeing the nose cone fall away
10:40: Solar acquisition

Monday, May 3, 2010

SDO Observes Massive Eruption, Scorching Rain

April 27, 2010: Just last week, scientists working with NASA's new Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) released the most astonishing movies of the sun anyone had ever seen. Now, they're doing it again.

"SDO has just observed a massive eruption on the sun—one of the biggest in years," says Lika Guhathakurta of NASA headquarters in Washington DC. "The footage is not only dramatic, but also could solve a longstanding mystery of solar physics."

Karel Schrijver of Lockheed Martin's Solar and Astrophysics Lab is leading the analysis. "We can see a billion tons of magnetized plasma blasting into space while debris from the explosion falls back onto the sun surface. These may be our best data yet."

Click here to read the rest of the article

SDO EVE calibration rocket launch day!

Today, May 3, at 2:12 pm ET/12:12 pm MT the SDO EVE calibration rocket will launch from White Sands Missile Range, NM. Everything is looking good for an on time launch. No real time video is allowed due to security reasons on the Missile Range, but the CCD data and video from the cameras (one pointing forward, one aft) will be posted as soon as possible. Follow the day's progress at: