Understanding the sun

Solar observatory is the world’s largest

The most advanced solar observatory ever built is now on a five-year mission to help scientists better understand the how the sun influences life on Earth.

Solar Dynamics Observatory, launched on Thursday (Feb. 11), was NASA’s second launch in four days. (Space shuttle Endeavor left for the International Space Station on Feb. 8.).

The $856 million observatory—known as SDO—is the first mission in NASA’s Living With a Star program. The spacecraft will transmit 150 million bits of data to scientists each day, according to The Associated Press.

Scientists are interested in “space weather” because it can disrupt communications and satellites, knock out power and endanger astronauts. The hope is that the research will lead to better predictions of solar weather, thus helping to reduce the affects.