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NASA Space Science

NASA Solar Satellite's First Sun Images 103

coondoggie writes "NASA today showed off the amazing first pictures of the Sun taken from its 6,800lb Solar Dynamics Observatory flying at an orbit 22,300 miles above Earth. The first images show a variety of activity NASA says provide never-before-seen detail of material streaming outward and away from sunspots. Others show extreme close-ups of activity on the sun's surface. The spacecraft also has made the first high-resolution measurements of solar flares in a broad range of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths."
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NASA Solar Satellite's First Sun Images

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:46PM (#31934128) Journal
    I believe NetworkWorld may have been less than prudent in failing to put a thumbnail in place of scaling a 4,096 x 4,096 image totaling 8.6 MB down to 300 x 400. Although I guess since they are sourcing it from nasa.gov this slashdotting is going to come at the taxpayer's expense? :-)

    I didn't see a link in the article, but here's the original NASA press release [nasa.gov].
  • Careful! (Score:5, Funny)

    by martas ( 1439879 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @08:47PM (#31934138)
    if you look at the article directly, you'll burn out your retinas!
  • by Meshach ( 578918 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:00PM (#31934234)

    SDO will provide critical data that will improve the ability to predict these space weather events.

    I do not know what everyone else thinks but I think that sounds pretty exciting. I can see it having a huge impact on airline and space travel.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

      "space weather" is a term used to refer to solar output fluctuation so the layman can understand it. It has more to do with radio and electronic systems on earth and in space than it does to earth-bound weather.

    • I don't think not being able to predict space weather usually has a huge impact on airlines, so I'm not sure how being able to predict it would.

      • by teridon ( 139550 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:23PM (#31935282) Homepage

        Depends on the flight path. Flights that go to high latitudes (great cirle routes over the north pole) sometimes lose communications due to (currently unpredicted) solar events. They are not allowed to fly without communications, so they have to divert to more southerly routes to restore comm. Of course this takes more time and fuel -- perhaps even forcing a landing at a closer airport.

        Accurate predictions of solar events would allow the airline industry to plan better.

      • by oneiros27 ( 46144 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:27PM (#31935312) Homepage

        The issue is that when you're flying long distances, you have the choice of either flying over the poles, or refueling mid-way. If there's a solar storm going on, everyone's exposed to a fair amount of radiation in a polar flight, and it might affect some of their instruments. Most airlines will take the refueling stop if there's a storm.

        The radiation likely won't be enough to affect the average passenger, but it's the pilots who get to decide, and it's the flight crews that are exposed to radiation over and over again on these trips. ... but it'll be more important when we move to GPS for air traffic control -- GPS doesn't work when there's too much noise in that frequency band. This would mean that the FAA would have to fall back to radar, and all of the benefits they're claiming for their new system would be wiped out. (ie, need to leave more space around planes, so you can't pack the airspace as well)

        • It's the same thing to X-Ray machines - the level of radiation for the patient is important, but negligible over its life time, while the doctors/nurses that tend to the installation are much well protected, yet the level of radiation over their life time might be signifiant.

    • So what? What good is predicting if you can't do anything about it?

      From the article "Such events [Coronal Mass Ejections] can expose astronauts to deadly particle doses, can disable satellites, cause power grid failures on Earth and disrupt communications." The effects of such an events seem beyond mankind's ability to mitigate beyond a simple duck-and-cover.
      • Well, you'll know when to "duck and cover". Or in practical terms you'll know to shut down the critical systems on the satellites and weather out the "storm" as well as have your astronauts move to more shielded areas of the spacecraft.
  • That little thing in the lower left side of the sun. It is a perfect rectangle. It couldn't be made in nature. It must be a door!

  • Video (Score:4, Informative)

    by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:12PM (#31934344) Homepage Journal

      There's some absolutely awesome video from SDO here [cnn.com]



    • Re:Video (Score:5, Informative)

      by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:16PM (#31934396) Homepage Journal

        Better article [nasa.gov]

        This is incredible stuff. The CNN author called it "Hubble for the sun" and that's exactly what it is.


      • But it's in focus, without needing a servicing mission.

  • by adosch ( 1397357 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:14PM (#31934358)

    I'd love to see the infrastructure design document from whomever is working at Solar Dynamics Observatory on what they are using for an online disk and long-term storage solution. If they are doing MOC, ingest and data processing/control all in one central location with was mentioned ITFA:

    Specifically, NASA says the SDO will beam back 1.5 terabytes of data every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week

    Annually, at it's rawest data form, they house ~548TB (0.5 petabytes)!! I work for a NASA funded land processing project, and with our MODIS ingest from GSFC [nasa.gov] and ASTER pan ingest from Japan, in 11 years, we've accumulated close to 1.5PB of data. Of course, this is trimmed down and anything we need to generate other data product levels is starting to get housed long-term, but that's a HELL of a long of volume to consume and do fantastic projects with. Hurray for science once again. At least this NASA function still is getting money, eh?

    • After knowing that the LHC has total a raw data rate of about 1 GB per second, and about 15 PB a year, nothing can impress me me that much anymore...

    • by teridon ( 139550 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @10:10PM (#31934814) Homepage

      Sorry, you can't see the design documents! :-P

      Flight operations for the spacecraft is at GSFC, while instrument operations can be done at both GSFC and at the science operations centers.

      Science data is stored temporarily ( up to 30 days) at the dedicated ground stations at White Sands. The data is transferred in close to real-time (OC-3 lines for HMI/AIA, DS-3 for EVE) from there to each of the science instrument data centers (LASP for EVE, and JSOC at Stanford for HMI and AIA).

      So, in this case it is the science teams (not NASA) that must store and process massive amounts of data. Perhaps obviously, none of the science data processing is done at GSFC (only engineering data).

      Actually, you can find some documents online for HMI/AIA by searching Google for "jsoc sdp".

    • MODIS, eh? Earth science (specifically, the EOS-DIS) gets an order of magnitude more money than what we have to work with in solar science.

      As for data storage, there's actually more than one system Besides what was already mentioned of the store and forward at the ground station, there's then the 'SDO JSOC' (Joint Science Operations Center) which will provide storage for AIA and HMI ... but they'll be pushing the level 0 to tape after only a few days. They won't be archiving level 1 for AIA, and will have

  • 6800 lbs? (Score:4, Funny)

    by navyjeff ( 900138 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:17PM (#31934402) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad they told us the weight of the satellite. That sounds like really important information. There's no way we could know if the observatory was fit for science if we didn't know it weighed more than three Volkswagens.
    • by gront ( 594175 )
      Still need the volume in library of congresses. Or breadboxen.
    • Nerds (Score:4, Funny)

      by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:24PM (#31934456)

      Normal guy: How much do you think that chick weighs?
      Slashdot guy: How much do you think that satellite weighs?

      Sounds about right.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      I'm glad you posted this sarcastic response to what you regard as a insignificant piece of data in an article about an incredible new piece of hardware that's already giving us new insights about our star. Your comment truly makes reading this website worthwhile.

      Then some idiot moderator posted you insightful...

      You know, some of us actually might find that piece of data interesting. Just because you do not, is not sufficient reason to criticize the author(s) of the article. Your p

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by T Murphy ( 1054674 )
        I agree the weight is relevant and interesting, but I agree with the parent it is not the most important piece of information about the satellite- as implied by it being the first thing the article tells you. Tell me the mission of the satellite, what kind of instruments it has, what insight it might lead to. After I know everything I really need to know, you can tell me the weight or the time it takes to fill a CD (a fact the article properly places last).
    • No, it really is important- a satellite weighing 6800 pounds at 22300 miles up is almost 300,000 pounds on Earth. Telling us they revived the Saturn V for three launches to get it up there would be more helpful, but I guess the author knew we could figure that out on our own.

      On a related note, I tried to search "6800 lbs at 22300 miles" on Google- the first result was your post
      • I can't tell if you're joking or not, but SDO was launched on an Atlas V 401 vehicle. As for claiming it weighs 6800 lbs, I would wager that was the weight while on Earth. As other 'dotters have pointed out though, it is pretty retarded they aren't talking mass rather than weight.
  • by Lord Grey ( 463613 ) * on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:22PM (#31934440)

    Specifically, NASA says the SDO will beam back 1.5 terabytes of data every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That's almost 50 times more science data than any other mission in NASA history. It's like downloading 500,000 iTunes a day, NASA stated.

    Apparently iTunes has morphed into a unit of scale. What is that in Library of Congresses?

    • Re:Whoa. But... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:58PM (#31934750)

      Wait a minute... 1.5TB/d = 500,000 iTunes/d??
      This would mean that iTunes has only 3MB? The size of a song...
      OMG, those complete retard mean MP3s!!
      I bet they refer to MP3 players as “iPods”...
      This is even dumber than not knowing the difference between $0.02 and 0.02 cent!

    • I heard a valid reason from Dean Pesnell (SDO Project Scientist) -- they wanted to compare it to a compressed media, rather than using units of 'library of congress'. Either someone misheard the quote, or someone screwed up their line, as it was supposed to be something like 'downloading 500k songs from iTunes a day'.

      For some reason, they weren't willing to go with the PornYear [theregister.co.uk] metric.

      (and to the other commenter who said they should've said 'MP3' -- iTunes uses AAC, not MP3, and if you said file format onl

    • And god knows that people who read science news cannot possibly comprehend how much a terabyte is.

  • Torrent Please (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Statecraftsman ( 718862 ) * on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:22PM (#31934444) Homepage
    I downloaded the 40mb(h264 mov) file which was all of 31 seconds. What would be super awesome though would be a torrent of a longer period of time...like an hour at least. Pretty please NASA? If the Norweigans can do it with a train ride surely we can do it for a great solar instrument like this.
  • by gront ( 594175 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @09:25PM (#31934458)
    Not sure of the extra-specialness of a solar observatory at the time of a record setting solar minimum.

    "During 2008-2009 NASA scientists noted that the Sun is undergoing a "deep solar minimum," stating: "There were no sunspots observed on 266 of [2008's] 366 days (73%). Prompted by these numbers, some observers suggested that the solar cycle had hit bottom in 2008. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of September 14, there were no sunspots on 206 of the year's 257 days (80%). It adds up to one inescapable conclusion: "We're experiencing a very deep solar minimum," says solar physicist Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center. "This is the quietest sun we've seen in almost a century," agrees sunspot expert David Hathaway of the National Space Science and Technology Center NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center.

    from wikipedia quoting legitimate sources http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_minimum [wikipedia.org]

    I'm all for space exploration, but the TFA should at least mention the solar minimum. And isn't http://solarstormwatch.com/ [solarstormwatch.com] more interestin' anyway?

  • Girls(I hope)! Guys!

    These videos are awesome. For once, don't bother with the article, just feast your eyes on extraordinary false-color footage of the source* of our life:

    http://www.nasa.gov/mov/445831main_Alan-1-FirstSunImageandFootageH264.mov [nasa.gov]

    http://www.nasa.gov/mov/445834main_Alan-4-Larger-activeRegion-H264.mov [nasa.gov]

    Others are available here:

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/news/briefing-materials-20100421.html [nasa.gov]

    These are some of the most beautiful works of art I've ever seen, and I studied Fine Art for ove

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        What particularly struck me was the very "organic" looking cell structure

        There's not much information Granule (solar physics) [wikipedia.org] but it will give you a start on learning more.

        (Solar astronomy is one of my hobbies, so I knew what to search for. Enjoy!)


      • Thanks dude!
        • by shadowbearer ( 554144 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:26PM (#31935304) Homepage Journal

            My pleasure!

            Something else to think about - you spoke of energy levels - just one of those granules is about the size of the Earth*, and the average temperature at the surface of the sun is around 6000 Kelvin. If the earth was magically transported there, everything on the surface would evaporate instantly, and the oceans would boil completely away in a matter of minutes. The rest of the planet might last a few days, at the most.

              We humans, with our fusion weapons, think we have "harnessed the fury of the stars" while in reality we've barely touched upon the energy levels that are common everywhere - and our sun is just a "middle class" star in terms of energy levels. There are phenomenon out there that make our sun look like a spark in a nuclear explosion...

            The universe is both beautiful, and terrible beyond imagination.

            Welcome to astronomy :) One of the greatest pleasures I find is in expanding minds...

            * roughly; the sun is about a million miles in diameter, and granule size varies. It's a close enough approximation, however.


  • Now why the hell does a story about new pictures from NASA link to Network World instead of, oh, say, NASA?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by oneiros27 ( 46144 )

      It's your basic blog spam -- slashdot user 'coondoggie [slashdot.org]' submits an article written by 'Michael Cooney'.

      Look at the rest of his submissions -- all just links back to Network World. Maybe he's trying to make up for the loss of Roland [slashdot.org]. (Although, Roland got better in his submissions)

  • by dr_dank ( 472072 ) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @11:12PM (#31935198) Homepage Journal

    If you look closely, you can see the flag that Louis Armstrong planted on the surface.

  • That's just typical for Obama's disastrous NASA politics:
    Take remote pictures of it from an unmanned observatory.

    -Under George W. we would have landed there!
  • by NetNed ( 955141 )
    Wait Wait Wait man........ That picture is the cover for a 1977 Parliament-Funkadelic album, isn't it man?!!! Far out man! On two levels!
  • Check out the full-screen mpegs here: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/Gallery/SDOFirstLight.html [nasa.gov]

  • Does this mean we can finally figure out how to land on the sun at night?
  • No really.. it is. Awesome.

    Vid is on youtube also..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YShVRLSJ-7c [youtube.com]

  • I know it goes without saying here, but "Do Not Look Directly at the Article for any amount of time!"

  • don't look directly at a picture of the Sun.

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan