Washington: High winds forced US space agency NASA to cancel the planned launch of a solar probe Wednesday.
The countdown for the launch of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was called off because the wind load was higher than allowed, NASA said. An earlier launch was also delayed due to bad weather, and a NASA meteorologist had cautioned Tuesday that high winds could threaten Wednesday's launch.
The SDO is the "crown jewel" of a fleet of NASA satellites planned to collect more details about what's going on underneath and above the surface of the sun, said Michael Luther, a NASA official overseeing the programme.
Under the Living With a Star programme, scientists said they hope to better predict the sun's periodic release of billions of tons of matter that can endanger human life and health, corrode oil pipelines, disrupt communications and cause power surges.
From earth's orbit, the SDO is to collect data over five years and download 1.5 terabytes every day, which will be managed by a special receiving centre on earth.
While various elements of the sun have been studied over the years, the SDO will be the first to present a "comprehensive view" of all the elements.
The solar probe will collect 60 images a minute with 10 times the resolution of high-definition television, 24 hours a day, measuring the sun's extreme ultraviolet light and mapping its plasma flows and magnetic fields.
Dean Pesnell, a project scientist, said the programme was vital to figuring out how to predict solar disruptions.
"The sun's magnetic fields are the equivalent of tectonic plates on earth," said Alan Title, an astronomer on the project. When they shift, they are "capable of releasing massive amounts of energy."
Under the normal 11-year cycle of solar disruptions, also known as sunspots, the SDO's mission will coincide with the next storms in 2013 or 2014.
First Published: Thursday, February 11, 2010, 09:33