I intended to address this earlier, but Iceland’s volcanology stole the stage for a bit. NASA recently put a new satellite into orbit whose mission will be to monitor the sun, using new and more advanced technology then has been previously deployed: the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO). From the web page:

“Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, SDO is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the sun and its dynamic behavior. The spacecraft will provide images with clarity ten times better than high definition television and more comprehensive science data faster than any solar observing spacecraft in history.” and from the mission statement:

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will be taking a closer look at the Sun, the source of all Space Weather. Space Weather affects not only our lives here on Earth, but the Earth itself, and everything outside its atmosphere (astronauts and satellites out in space and even the other planets)….SDO is the first satellite under the Living with a Star (LWS) program at NASA. The spacecraft is being designed to fly for five years. However, since satellites go through a lot of testing and retesting, they often keep working long past their initial mission life. SOHO for example, which was built to fly for five years, in 2005 celebrated its 10 year anniversary in 2005!…

“First light” is astronomer-speak for the first time a new telescope is turned toward the heavens to capture the light of a remote star or space object. On April 2312, 2010, SDO (the Solar Dynamic Observatory) unveiled its first-light imagery for the first time, and the views are, and will be spectacular:

full-disk multiwavelength extreme ultraviolet image of the sun taken by SDO on March 30, 2010. False colors trace different gas temperatures. Reds are relatively cool (about 60,000 Kelvin, or 107,540 F); blues and greens are hotter (greater than 1 million Kelvin, or 1,799,540 F). Credit: NASA SDO/AIA

Click on the filament image below for a full screen mp4 video of this filament erupting:

A close-up view of the filament launch in the 304 band, which corresponds to a wavelength of about 304 Angstroms.

Additional motion views at different scales are available here.

The NASA home page for SDO is http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/main/index.html, and many of the images will available at the Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio (search “SDO” under Most Recent Imagery at the Studio pages).

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