Friday, February 12, 2010

NASA Successfully Launches a New Eye on the Sun (February 12, 2010)

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) lifted off Thursday, Feb. 11, 2009, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a first-of-a-kind mission to reveal the sun's inner workings in unprecedented detail, comparable to super HD or IMAX quality. The launch aboard an Atlas V rocket occurred at 10:23 a.m. EST. The most technologically advanced of NASA's heliophysics spacecraft, 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. The SDO project is managed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD.

The SDO spacecraft is in good shape midway through the launch phase that will eventually place it in an elongated orbit reaching more than 21,000 miles high. Eventually, SDO's orbit will be circularized and will reach about 22,300 miles in what is called geosynchronous orbit. From that altitude, the spacecraft will point its instruments at the sun and relay the readings instantly to a ground station in New Mexico.

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