Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Avalanche! The Incredible Data Stream Of Solar Dynamics Observatory

Date:
August 12, 2009
Source:
NASA
Summary:
When NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) leaves Earth in November 2009 onboard an Atlas V rocket, the thunderous launch will trigger an avalanche. Mission planners are bracing themselves -- not for rocks or snow, but an avalanche of data.

This is the sun photographed by an ultraviolet camera onboard NASA's STEREO spacecraft. Solar Dynamics Observatory will expand scenes like this one to IMAX resolution.
Credit: NASA/STEREO

When NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) leaves Earth in November 2009 onboard an Atlas V rocket, the thunderous launch will trigger an avalanche.

Mission planners are bracing themselves -- not for rocks or snow, but an avalanche of data.

"SDO will beam back 150 million bits of data per second, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," says Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. That’s almost 50 times more science data than any other mission in NASA history. "It's like downloading 500,000 iTunes a day."

SDO is on a mission to study the sun in unprecedented detail. Onboard telescopes will scrutinize sunspots and solar flares using more pixels and colors than any other observatory in the history of solar physics. And SDO will reveal the sun’s hidden secrets in a prodigious rush of pictures.

"SDO is going to send us images ten times better than high definition television," says Pesnell, the project scientist for the new mission. A typical HDTV screen has 720 by 1280 pixels; SDO's images will have almost four times that number in the horizontal direction and five times in the vertical. “The pixel count is comparable to an IMAX movie -- an IMAX filled with the raging sun, 24 hours a day."

Spatial resolution is only half the story, though. Previous missions have photographed the sun no faster than once every few minutes. SDO will shatter that record.

"We'll be getting IMAX-quality images every 10 seconds," says Pesnell. "We'll see every nuance of solar activity." Because these fast cadences have never been attempted before by an orbiting observatory, the potential for discovery is great.

To illustrate the effect this might have on solar physics, Pesnell recalls the 18th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who won a famous bet with racehorse owner Leland Stanford. In those days, horses were widely thought to keep at least one hoof on the ground even in full gallop. That's how it appeared to the human eye.

"But when Muybridge photographed horses using a new high-speed camera system, he discovered something surprising," says Pesnell. "Galloping horses spend part of the race completely airborne—all four feet are off the ground."

Pesnell anticipates similar surprises from high-speed photography of the sun. The images could upend mainstream ideas about sunspot genesis, what triggers solar flares, and how explosions ripple through the sun's atmosphere en route to Earth.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory has three main instruments. The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) is a battery of four telescopes designed to photograph the sun's surface and atmosphere. AIA filters cover 10 different wavelength bands, or colors, selected to reveal key aspects of solar activity. The bulk of SDO's data stream will come from these telescopes.

The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) will map solar magnetic fields and peer beneath the sun's opaque surface using a technique called helioseismology. A key goal of this experiment is to decipher the physics of the sun's magnetic dynamo.

The Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) will measure fluctuations in the sun's ultraviolet output. EUV radiation sun has a direct and powerful effect on Earth's upper atmosphere, heating it, puffing it up, and breaking apart atoms and molecules. "We really don't know how fast the sun varies at these wavelengths," notes Pesnell. "We're guaranteed to learn something new."

To gather data from all three instruments, NASA has set up a pair of dedicated radio antennas near Las Cruces, New Mexico. SDO's geosynchronous orbit will keep the observatory in constant view of the two 18-meter dishes around the clock for the duration of the observatory's five-year mission. Not a single bit should be lost.

"We're ready," says Pesnell. "Let the avalanche begin!"


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA. The original article was written by Dr. Tony Phillips, NASA Heliophysics News Team. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA. "Avalanche! The Incredible Data Stream Of Solar Dynamics Observatory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090811081637.htm>.
NASA. (2009, August 12). Avalanche! The Incredible Data Stream Of Solar Dynamics Observatory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090811081637.htm
NASA. "Avalanche! The Incredible Data Stream Of Solar Dynamics Observatory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090811081637.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) The smallest of Saturn's main moons, Mimas, wobbles as it orbits. Research reveals it might be due to a global ocean underneath its icy surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Set for Rare Close Shave With Mars

Comet Set for Rare Close Shave With Mars

AFP (Oct. 16, 2014) A fast-moving comet is about to shave by Mars for a once-in-a-million-years encounter that a flurry of spacecraft around the Red Planet hope to capture and photograph, NASA said. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins