NASA recently launched a probe that's designed to do nothing but study the sun — and it's found new ways of helping scientists observe "violent solar events." Which could be useful for predicting mega-flares.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory, which NASA launched this past February, was built by the Goddard Space Flight Center for the express purpose of studying the sun and it carries a trio of instruments for solar research: the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (which looks beneath the sun's surface), the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (which takes hi-res photos of the surface itself), and the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (which measures fluctuations in radiant emissions).

According to ScienceDaily:


These emissions have a direct and powerful effect on Earth's upper atmosphere — heating it, puffing it up, and breaking apart atoms and molecules. Researchers don't know how fast the sun can vary at many of these wavelengths, so they expect to make discoveries about flare events.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory will transmit 1.5 terabytes of information back to Earth each day. Expect more amazing images soon.