This was quite a week for Space Weather!
Geomagnetic storms due to coronal mass ejections (CMEs) earlier in the week have increased in strength, and are now rated a G3 on a scale from G1 to G5.Yesterday, Thursday March 8, the storm was fairly mild since the magnetic fields from the CMEs were partially aligned with Earth's own and thus slid around the magnetosphere.
This space weather is due to the March 7 activity from the sun that caused rapid changes to the shape of Earth's magnetosphere – the bubble of protective magnetic fields surrounding the planet, resulting in a geomagnetic storm. However, the geomagnetic storm has increased because the magnetic fields have now changed direction such that they can more easily deposit magnetic energy and radiation into Earth's environment.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will be taking a closer look at the Sun, using the EVE instrument cluster created at the Labratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) right here in the CU research park in Boulder CO.
Our Sun is the source of all Space Weather. And Space Weather affects not only our lives here on Earth, but the Earth itself, and everything outside its atmosphere. The Sun, our closest star, is still a great mystery to scientists.
EVE is made up of several small instruments that keep track of the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) rays that the Sun sends towards us. Ultraviolet (UV) rays are light, like any other light, but of colors that our eyes can't see. Extreme ultraviolet rays are even more dangerous, but we on Earth are safe because EUV rays are completely absorbed high up in the Earth's atmosphere.
The brightness of EUV light from the Sun changes when the magnetic field of the Sun is more active Scientists want to have a better understanding of why and how the amount of EUV light from the Sun changes.
EVE will measure a spectrum every 10 seconds 24 hours a day!
The SDO spacecraft sucessfully launched aboard an Atlas V rocket on February 11, 2010. Unlike any other satellite it will be collecting huge amounts of data everyday.
In fact SDO will produce enough data to fill a single CD every 36 seconds...
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.
Many satellites share a ground system (place on the ground where they send data and photographs) and have recording systems to save the data collected until they can talk to their ground station.
Because SDO has no recording system and will be collecting so much data, the SDO mission has to build its very OWN ground station. For this to be possible, SDO has to be placed in a geosynchronous orbit (GEO). This means that it will rotate at the same speed as the Earth and will always be directly above and in constant communication with its ground station in New Mexico.