October 25, 2016 – On October 20-21, 2016, the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observed a pair of large coronal holes on the face of the Sun. These holes are areas of open magnetic field lines that allow solar wind to escape from the Sun and spew out into space at about 400-500 miles per second — or roughly twice the speed of normal solar wind, which constantly streams off the Sun.
Sometimes when coronal holes are facing Earth, the solar wind creates geomagnetic disturbances around Earth that generate aurora. In this case, the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado issued an alert predicting G3 magnetospheric disturbances. The probability of auroral activity is high in Northern regions.
SDO is designed to study the sun and its impacts on Earth. The spacecraft’s long-term measurements give scientists in-depth information to help characterize the interior of the sun, the sun’s magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona, and the density of radiation that creates the ionosphere of the planets. The information is used to create better forecasts of space weather needed to protect aircraft, satellites, and astronauts living and working in space.
SDO includes an instrument built in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and another built by Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California.
Goddard built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program.
SDO was launched on February 11, 2010 aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.