NOAA and NASA Open a New Set of Eyes on the Sun
Look out SDO—there’s another set of eyes watching the Sun in a wide swath of wavelengths! The images above are the first from the Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI) instrument aboard NOAA’s new GOES-16 satellite, positioned in a geostationary orbit about 22,200 miles from Earth. These are SUVI’s first successful test images, captured on Jan. 29, 2017; once fully operational SUVI will monitor the Sun round the clock in six different UV and X-ray wavelengths, providing up-to-date data on the behavior of our home star.
Watch the first video of the Sun from GOES-16 data below:
The footage above shows the Sun in the 304 Å (angstrom) wavelength, which observes plasma in the Sun’s atmosphere up to a temperature of about 50,000 Kelvin (about 90,000ºF). When combined with the five other wavelengths from SUVI, observations such as these give solar physicists and space weather forecasters a complete picture of the conditions on the sun that drive space weather.
The video above is preliminary test data and not intended for scientific observations.
Space weather is the variation in the charged-particle and magnetic environment in the area of space through which Earth orbits the Sun. The Sun itself is much of the source of space weather, with its constant solar wind as well as outbursts from flares, coronal mass ejections, and coronal holes. Monitoring the Sun is important in the forecasting of space weather and how it might affect sensitive electronic systems aboard satellites in orbit and potentially even on the ground. Read more here.
GOES-16 is the newest and most advanced member of the GOES family of Earth observation satellites used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to deliver detailed and up-to-date weather information to meteorologists around the country. In addition to monitoring Earth weather, GOES-16 is also equipped with instruments like SUVI to keep an eye on our Sun.
GOES-16 was launched as GOES-R aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 from Cape Canaveral on November 19, 2016. I just happened to be on site for the night launch; check out my video of the launch here.
Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center