Friday, February 12, 2010

Foto Friday: Sun's magnetic field

This illustration shows convoluted magnetic field lines
extending out all over the Sun.(Image credits: NASA / SVS via Space)

NASA on Thursday launched a new observatory that is designed to evaluate the complex mechanisms of the sun.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida's Atlantic Coast at 10:23 a. m. EST (1523 GMT), NASA said in a statement.

The SDO is billed as the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the sun and its dynamic behavior.

It has a five-year science mission and carries enough fuel to operate for an additional five years. Total cost of the SDO project is reported to be at 856 million U.S. dollars.

NASA said the SDO will provide better quality, more comprehensive science data faster than any of the space agency's spacecraft currently studying the sun and its processes.

Research by the new observatory is expected to reveal the sun's inner workings by constantly taking high resolution images of the sun, collecting readings from inside the sun and measuring its magnetic field activity.

According to NASA, the SDO will take images of the sun every 0. 75 seconds and daily send back about 1.5 terabytes of data to Earth -- the equivalent of streaming 380 full-length movies.

"SDO is going to make a huge step forward in our understanding of the sun and its effects on life and society," Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters, said in a statement.

Data from the observatory will help researchers predict solar storms and other activity on the sun that can affect spacecraft in orbit, astronauts on the International Space Station and electronic and other systems on earth, NASA said.

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