New space telescope reveals extreme close-ups of activity on the sun’s surface

Researchers at Nasa have unveiled a new space satellite, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), and released images that show the incredible power of the sun.

Nasa’s new eye in the sky is designed to help scientists better understand the sun’s dynamic processes and curious phenomenon such as solar storms.

Solar storms are powerful magnetic fields resulting from increased activity on the sun. When they shoot out of the sun and hit earth they can disrupt satellites, communications and even cause widespread blackouts. Space weather has been recognised as a cause of technological problems since the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century.

"These initial images show a dynamic sun that I had never seen in more than 40 years of solar research,” said Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics Division at Nasa Headquarters in Washington. "SDO will change our understanding of the sun and its processes, which affect our lives and society. This mission will have a huge impact on science, similar to the impact of the Hubble Space Telescope on modern astrophysics.”

SDO will provide critical data that will improve the ability of scientists to predict space weather events, said Nasa. Nasa''s Goddard Space Flight Center built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft.

“I’m so proud of our brilliant work force at Goddard, which is rewriting science textbooks once again.” said Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee that funds Nasa. “This time Goddard is shedding new light on our closest star, the sun, discovering new information about powerful solar flares that affect us here on Earth by damaging communication satellites and temporarily knocking out power grids. Better data means more accurate solar storm warnings.”

The video below was taken by the SDO on March 30, 2010 and shows a solar eruption.

See the next issue of StrategicRISK for a complete analysis of solar storms and how they could affect business.


A solar eruption