This is the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly. Together with the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager and the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment, it will capture the sun at Imax resolution every 10 seconds. The instruments will travel together inside NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft.
After its expected February 9 launch on top of an Atlas V rocket, the SDO will capture images at almost four times the resolution of an HD TV, transmitting the results back to Earth at 130 megabits per second. Basically, this thing will be transmitting the equivalent of 500,000 MP3s per day, seven days a week. According to Dean Pesnell at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the potential for new discoveries is giganormous.
"We'll be getting Imax-quality images every 10 seconds. We'll see every nuance of solar activity," Pesnell said.
Pesnell said that this speed opens an incredible potential for discovery, using 18th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge as an example:
But when Muybridge photographed horses using a new high-speed camera system, he discovered something surprising. Galloping horses spend part of the race completely airborne--all four feet are off the ground.
To achieve all this, the three instruments in the SDO have been designed to cover three vital aspects of our home star.… Read more