"An astonishingly fragile film"

Dr. Piers Sellers knows the Earth’s atmosphere. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in ecological science and a doctorate in biometeorology in England, Dr. Sellers studied the interaction between the Earth’s biosphere and atmosphere at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. 

Dr. Sellers then became an astronaut and flew in three shuttle missions to the International Space Station stationed in the rarefied atmospheric layers 180 – 190 miles above Earth. 

With 80% of the atmosphere located within 10 miles of the Earth’s surface, travelling at mere 60 miles an hour, we would drive through this rich layer in 10 minutes. As Dr. Sellers observed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent film Before the Flood, “an astonishingly thin layer” nourishes us.

John Oró MD

Solar Dynamics Observatory's revealing false color image of the sun


A full-disk multiwavelength extreme ultraviolet image of the sun taken by SDO on March 30, 2010. False colors trace different gas temperatures. Reds are relatively cool (about 60,000 Kelvin, or 107,540 F); blues and greens are hotter (greater than 1 million Kelvin, or 1,799,540 F). Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO AIA Team

In February 2010, NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), “the most advanced spacecraft ever designed to study the sun.” NASA’s mission for SDO:

During its five-year mission, it will examine the sun's magnetic field and also provide a better understanding of the role the sun plays in Earth's atmospheric chemistry and climate. Since launch, engineers have been conducting testing and verification of the spacecraft’s components. Now fully operational, SDO will provide images with clarity 10 times better than high-definition television and will return more comprehensive science data faster than any other solar observing spacecraft.

SDO will provide critical data that will improve the ability to predict these space weather events. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.