On February 11th, 2010, NASA launched a new spacecraft called the Solar Dynamics Observatory [SDO], which was designed to give more knowledge and clearer images of the Sun than any other spacecraft that has been launched before for this purpose.
On April 21st, 2010, the scientists of NASA have quoted their experiment with the SDO to be a success as they have received images which are almost 10 times clearer than the high-def TV. The spacecraft has also provided new knowledge on the sun’s dynamic process that will help scientists to know better about its solar activities.
The images were so clear that they could even see minute details of material streaming outward and away from sunspots. Some highly focussed images also showed the types of activity on the surface of the sun. The SDO is the first spacecraft to take high resolution measurements of all solar flashes in a small range of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths.
According to some scientist in NASA, they were able to bring up new assessments on the sun, which they have been researching on for the past 40 years. They also believe this discovery to bring a huge impact on science in the coming years.
Here is a picture taken by the SDO. It is a full disk multi-wavelength extreme ultraviolet image in which each colours [seen at different layers] represent different gas temperatures. The blue and green colours seen just outside the sun are of high temperatures in the range of 1 million Kelvin or so. The outside red colour is a little cooler than the others with a temperature of 60,000 Kelvin.
The SDO has been setup as a five year mission to get a better knowledge on the sun’s magnetic field and to get a clear understanding on its affect on atmospheric chemistry and climate. The SDO tracks down the generation of the sun’s magnetic field and its geometric structure. It will also help in providing information about some basic and dreadful solar events like turbulent solar wind, solar flares and so on.
The most important work that has been assigned to the SDO is to predict the rapid change in weather conditions that are caused mainly due to the solar activity. Through this we can get a clear alert before the occurrence of natural phenomenon like Tsunami and so on and thus take necessary steps to save the victims.
The SDO sends almost 1.5 terabytes of data back to the earth, which includes all the information regarding various parameters and also latest images of the sun from various angles. The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager are two devices that are used in the SDO. They are used to map the solar magnetic fields and thus look beneath the sun’s opaque surface. This will help in getting better images within narrow bands of visible light.
There are also telescopic instruments that are used to take images of the surface of the sun and atmosphere. The instrument is specially designed to take pictures in almost 10 different wavelength bands, or colours, so as to get an exact idea of the solar activity.
Another parameter that is commonly noted by the SDO is the amount of fluctuations in the sun’s radiant emissions. As they cause variations in the Earth’s upper atmosphere the studies on them will help in making a better atmosphere.