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NASA launches IRIS solar mission to research space weather

Martyn Williams | June 28, 2013
NASA launched a solar telescope on Thursday that scientists hope will be able to unlock the secrets of how material gathers, moves and heats up as it travels through the Sun's lower atmosphere.

A recent study by Lloyd's of London said between 20 million and 40 million people in the U.S. are at risk of being without power for between two weeks and two years should a violent solar storm hit. The country is particularly at risk because of its aging power grid.

Power outages were much on the mind of the NASA team this week. IRIS was originally meant to be launched on Wednesday evening, but was delayed by a day because of a significant power outage at Vandenberg Airforce Base earlier in the week.

The irony of the delay wasn't lost on Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, which will be controlling the satellite and crunching a lot of the data it produces.

"We believe that some, maybe a lot of power outages, actually have a lot to do with solar activity," he said. "So the better we can understand the physics going on, the better we can understand the activity, the better we can potentially predict and mitigate these problems."

 

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