The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) mission “will determine how the sun’s magnetic field is generated, structured and converted into violent solar events like turbulent solar wind, solar flares and coronal mass ejections”, says Nasa. The solar wind fills the solar system with charged particles and magnetic fields, while solar flares are explosions in the Sun’s atmosphere equalling billions of Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs. And coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, are high-speed eruptions of solar material into space, where, well, the Earth is.
The data gathered may provide us with the ability to predict when these nasties will happen. Strangely enough, it all became a problem only recently, with the human race entering the age of advanced technology. Apart from providing us with sights as wonderful as the Corona Borealis, solar activity can knock satellites offline, disrupt communication systems and also put airplanes flying over Earth’s north and south poles at risk, as well as posing hazards for astronauts on the International Space Station. According to CNN, one such violent solar eruption knocked a power grid serving Quebec, Canada, off-line for nine hours in 1969.
SDO is packed with some of the humanity’s best scientific gear invented so far:
To give you an idea just how powerful all this equipment is: it will produce 1.5 terabytes of data a day, gather this on board the observatory and send it back to Earth. This transfer turned out to be the mission’s biggest challenge. So the SDO team designed a 18m-long antenna to beam the data directly to scientists at Stanford (Palo Alto) and Boulder (Colorado) universities, as well as Lockheed Martin’s Solar Astrophysics Lab in Colorado.
And in a nod to modern times, Nasa plans to download the data and images to a free iPhone application, 3D Sun.
As you read this, the SDO is now in elongated orbit, reaching 33,000km and will eventually be stable in geo-synchronous orbit about 36,000km from the Earth. It will be ready to start its work within two months.
We can’t wait.
By Staff Writer
Watch: Solar Dynamics Observatory Lifts Off
Watch Pauli van Wyk’s Cat Play The Piano Here!
No, not really. But now that we have your attention, we wanted to tell you a little bit about what happened at SARS.
Tom Moyane and his cronies bequeathed South Africa with a R48-billion tax shortfall, as of February 2018. It's the only thing that grew under Moyane's tenure... the year before, the hole had been R30.7-billion. And to fund those shortfalls, you know who has to cough up? You - the South African taxpayer.
It was the sterling work of a team of investigative journalists, Scorpio’s Pauli van Wyk and Marianne Thamm along with our great friends at amaBhungane, that caused the SARS capturers to be finally flushed out of the system. Moyane, Makwakwa… the lot of them... gone.
But our job is not yet done. We need more readers to become Maverick Insiders, the friends who will help ensure that many more investigations will come. Contributions go directly towards growing our editorial team and ensuring that Daily Maverick and Scorpio have a sustainable future. We can’t rely on advertising and don't want to restrict access to only those who can afford a paywall subscription. Membership is about more than just contributing financially – it is about how we Defend Truth, together.
So, if you feel so inclined, and would like a way to support the cause, please join our community of Maverick Insiders.... you could view it as the opposite of a sin tax. And if you are already Maverick Insider, tell your mother, call a friend, whisper to your loved one, shout at your boss, write to a stranger, announce it on your social network. The battle for the future of South Africa is on, and you can be part of it.
"What's the sense in having an eclipse if you can't look at it? Somebody in production sure slipped up this time!" ~ Charles M. Schulz