NASA Launches a Solar Observatory

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Feb. 11 (UPI) — The U.S. space agency launched its Solar Dynamics Observatory Thursday, marking the beginning of a five-year mission to observe the sun.

NASA said the observatory, which lifted off at 10:23 a.m. EST from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, is the first mission of its Living With a Star program. Officials said that project is designed to understand the causes of solar variability.

“SDO is designed to help us understand the sun’s influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously,” the space agency said. “SDO’s goal is to understand, driving towards a predictive capability, the solar variations that influence life on Earth and humanity’s technological systems by determining how the sun’s magnetic field is generated and structured (and) how this stored magnetic energy is converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of solar wind, energetic particles and variations in the solar irradiance.”

NASA scientists said the observatory is a sun-pointing semi-autonomous spacecraft that will allow nearly continuous observations of the sun. It is nearly 15 feet high and more than 6.5 feet on each side.

A Wednesday launch attempt had to be scrubbed because of unacceptably high winds at the launch site.

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Categorized | Solar
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