Ten years ago today, on February 11, 2010, The Solar Dynamics Observatory was launched into space by NASA. Happy birthday, SDO! All the more so because I had no idea you were up there until today!
Ten years is an awfully long time to be staring at the sun, but the SDO does it with aplomb. According to the NASA website, it has been in geosynchronous orbit above its ground station in New Mexico that entire time, producing enough data to fill up an entire CD every 36 seconds. That’s even more impressive when you learn that it’s still doing its thing even though its projected lifespan was only supposed to be 5 years.
It has been observing sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections so that we can improve forecasts of solar storms. This is important because these storms effect astronauts, satellites, electricity, satellite communications, and navigations systems.
What I find most compelling about this project is that you can click here, right now, and see what’s going on with the sun in (near) real time. You can also see stunning images, like the one below, of solar activity in the past. How cool (or in this case, very, very hot) is that?
I just love science.
(Today also happens to be my mother’s birthday. If she were still alive, she’d be turning 93. She’d be very proud to share this day with the SDO.)