Back in February, NASA launched a probe into space to study the Sun. This week the space agency released the first images and videos from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO. The craft is trying to better understand the Sun. It’s a pretty important task. The sun is what gives us light and heat. It powers the nation’s weather systems and it’s also the best source of Vitamin D we humans get every day.
Without the Sun and delicate balance we have with it, there would be no life on Earth. But there’s so much about the center of our solar system that we don’t understand. The two primary goals of the SDO mission are:
1. Learn how the Sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured
2. Learn how this stored magnetic energy is converted and released in the form of solar wind and energy particles.
Sound a little techy? Well, it is
The SDO carries the most advanced instruments available to NASA. A lot of what this little probe can do will not interest the average person here on earth. But it does give us an amazing view of our Sun, one we’ve never seen before.
Take a look at the video to the left, it shows what’s called a Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME. This wave of energy conatins as much material as there is water in the Mississippi River. Except a coronal mass ejection doesn’t move at a slow pace. It’s accerlerates from zero to 1,000,000,000mph in one second. Of course it doesn’t look that fast in the video, but trust us, it’s that fast.
The images captured by the SDO are amazingly sharp. In fact the probe’s cameras can shoot video ten times the resolution of standard HDTV here on Earth.
Besides unlocking the secrets of the Sun, scientists hope we can better protect the Earth, our spacecraft and astronauts form deadly solar flares. These flares can erupt will little warning. They can kill astronauts with deadly radiation, or even knock out electrical grids on Earth over a large area. In today’s digital world that is a major concern.