Skip to Main Content

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) mission graphic

Solar Dynamics Observatory

Phase: Operating

Launch Date: February 11, 2010

Mission Project Home Page -

Program(s):Heliophysics Research, Living With a Star

Pin it

Follow SDO on:

sun icon
SDO Brings You Self-Updating Views of the Sun
SDO's instruments are giving solar scientists an unprecedented look at the sun. The hope is to better understand how solar flares, coronal mass ejections and coronal holes are linked to the sun's magnetic field.

View solar activity for the previous 48 hours (updated every 30 minutes).

Still images and more movies can be found at the Goddard SDO data page.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is the first mission and crown jewel in a fleet of NASA missions to study our sun. The mission is the cornerstone of a NASA science program called Living With a Star (LWS). The goal of the LWS Program is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the sun and solar system that directly affect life and society.

SDO will study how solar activity is created and how space weather results from that activity. Measurements of the sun’s interior, magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona, and the irradiance will help meet the objectives of the SDO mission.

SDO is the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the sun and its dynamic behavior. It will provide better quality, more comprehensive science data faster than any NASA spacecraft currently studying the sun and its processes. SDO will unlock the processes inside the sun, on the sun's surface, and in its corona that result in solar variability. This variability, when experienced on Earth, is called space weather.

Particles and ionizing radiation from these solar storm events propagate to Earth and enter at Earth's poles. In some instances, aurora result. The increased particles and radiation produce space weather effects such as changing the ionizing radiation doses for passengers and electronics on polar aircraft flights, disabling satellites, causing power grid failures, and disrupting signals for the global positioning system, television, and telecommunications. Understanding the science of space weather can lead to a capability to predict space weather. This capability will allow us to accommodate or mitigate the effects of space weather. SDO will determine how the sun’s magnetic field is generated, structured, and converted into violent solar events that cause space weather.

SDO observations start in the interior of the sun where the magnetic field that is the driver for space weather is created. Next, SDO will observe the solar surface to directly measure the magnetic field and the solar atmosphere to understand how magnetic energy is linked to the interior and converted to space weather-causing events. Finally, SDO will measure the extreme ultraviolet irradiance of the sun that is a key driver to the structure and composition of Earth’s upper atmosphere.

SDO will observe different layers in solar atmosphere from visible surface, photosphere, to outer corona using a suite of instruments.

  • The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) is an array of four telescopes that will observe the surface and atmosphere of the sun. The AIA filters cover 10 different wavelength bands that are selected to reveal key aspects of solar activity. The AIA was built by the Lockheed Martin Solar Astrophysics Laboratory (LMSAL), Palo Alto, California. The AIA’s Principal Investigator is Dr. Alan Title of LMSAL.
  • The Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) will measure fluctuations in the sun’s ultraviolet output. Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation from the sun has a direct and powerful effect on Earth’s upper atmosphere; it heats it, inflates it, and inserts enough energy to break apart atoms and molecules. Researchers don’t know how fast the sun can vary at many of these wavelengths, so they expect to make many new discoveries about flare events. EVE was built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado. Dr. Tom Woods is the Principal Investigator.
  • The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) will map solar magnetic fields and peer beneath the sun’s opaque surface using a technique called helioseismology. A key goal of this experiment is to decipher the physics of the sun’s magnetic dynamo. HMI was built by Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory (LMSAL), Palo Alto, California. The Principal Investigator for HMI is Dr. Phil Scherrer of Stanford University.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory launched aboard an Atlas V rocket Feb. 11, 2010 at 10:23 a.m. EST. After a flawless launch and ascent, the spacecraft separated from the rocket's upper stage to begin a five-year mission to study the sun's energy and its influence on space weather.


Related Links
  • Video Overview of SDO's Mission -
  • What is SDO? Q&A with program executive -
  • More on SDO from NASA -
  • First Light for SDO -