Published on Feb 11, 2015
February 11, 2015 marks five years in space for NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which provides incredibly detailed images of the whole sun 24 hours a day. Capturing an image more than once per second, SDO has provided an unprecedentedly clear picture of how massive explosions on the sun grow and erupt ever since its launch on Feb. 11, 2010. The imagery is also captivating, allowing one to watch the constant ballet of solar material through the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.
In honor of SDO’s fifth anniversary, NASA has released a video showcasing highlights from the last five years of sun watching. Watch the movie to see giant clouds of solar material hurled out into space, the dance of giant loops hovering in the corona, and huge sunspots growing and shrinking on the sun’s surface.
The imagery is an example of the kind of data that SDO provides to scientists. By watching the sun in different wavelengths – and therefore different temperatures – scientists can watch how material courses through the corona, which holds clues to what causes eruptions on the sun, what heats the sun’s atmosphere up to 1,000 times hotter than its surface, and why the sun’s magnetic fields are constantly on the move.
Five years into its mission, SDO continues to send back tantalizing imagery to incite scientists’ curiosity. For example, in late 2014, SDO captured imagery of the largest sun spots seen since 1995 as well as a torrent of intense solar flares. Solar flares are bursts of light, energy and X-rays. They can occur by themselves or can be accompanied by what’s called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, in which a giant cloud of solar material erupts off the sun, achieves escape velocity and heads off into space. In this case, the sun produced only flares and no CMEs, which, while not unheard of, is somewhat unusual for flares of that size. Scientists are looking at that data now to see if they can determine what circumstances might have led to flares eruptions alone.
Goddard built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program. The program’s goal is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society.
According to this plan, there will be a rocket leaving for Mars in 2013. Before signing up, you need to know that you’ll only get a one-way ticket.
NASA has put together an extraordinary new booklet: Earth as Art. Here is an excerpt from the Introduction:
This book celebrates Earth’s aesthetic beauty in the patterns, shapes, colors, and textures of the land, oceans, ice, and atmosphere. Earth-observing environmental satellites can
measure outside the visible range of light, so these images show more than what is visible to the naked eye. The beauty of Earth is clear, and the artistry ranges from the surreal to
the sublime. Truly, by escaping Earth’s gravity we discovered its attraction.
Let this booklet load up and enjoy the show. Earth as you’ve never seen it before, from satellites.
It is “played” by the Perseus Cluster, and it is a Bb 57 octaves below middle c.
In 2003, astronomers detected the deepest note ever detected by mankind in the cosmos, a B♭, after 53 hours of Chandra observations. No human will actually hear the note, because its time period between oscillations is 9.6 million years, which is 57 octaves below the keys in the middle of a piano. The radio waves appear to be generated by the inflation of bubbles of relativistic plasma by the central active galactic nucleus in NGC 1275.
Dollars are fungible (and see here). So what’s the better value? Space exploration or a 10 year military occupation? Believe it or not, the U.S. has been spending a similar amount on each, year after year. Come to think of it, does endless war have any value to anyone other than politicians and military contractors?