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NOAA's new deep space solar monitoring satellite launches

11 February 2015

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NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 6:03 p.m. EST on 11 February on its way to an orbit one million miles from Earth. DSCOVR will give NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) forecasters more reliable measurements of solar wind conditions, improving their ability to monitor potentially harmful solar activity.

When it reaches its final destination about 110 days from now, and after it completes a series of initialisation checks, DSCOVR will be the nation's first operational satellite in deep space, orbiting between Earth and the Sun at a point called the Lagrange point, or L1. It will take its place at L1 alongside NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) research satellite, replacing the 17-year old ACE as America's primary warning system for solar magnetic storms headed towards Earth. Meanwhile, ACE will continue its important role in space weather research.

Data from DSCOVR, coupled with a new forecast model that is set to come online later this year, will enable NOAA forecasters to predict geomagnetic storm magnitude on a regional basis. Geomagnetic storms occur when plasma and magnetic fields streaming from the sun impact Earth's magnetic field. Large magnetic eruptions from the sun have the potential to bring major disruptions to power grids, aviation, telecommunications, and GPS systems.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Image credit: NASA - DSCOVR launch

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