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First Deep Space Satellite Tracks Another Kind of Weather [PHOTOS]

Jun 09, 2015 02:55 PM EDT

Earlier this week, the NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite reached its orbital position, not circling the Earth or Mars but instead orbiting the Sun itself, at a stunning 1 million miles from Earth.

This makes it the first orbiting satellite owned solely by the United States placed into deep space, and likely the first intended to last out there for an extended mission lasting many years.

According to the atmospheric agency, this is all part of an ongoing joint effort between NASA and the NOAA to better understand the factors that affect our world - examining things like climate change, water scarcity, atmospheric shifts, and even space weather from unique perspectives high above our blue planet. (Scroll to read on...)

Once final instrument checks are completed, DSCOVR will provide up-close and personal measurements of solar wind conditions as they whip their way towards Earth's delicate atmosphere.

"DSCOVR will trigger early warnings whenever it detects a surge of energy that could cause a geomagnetic storm that could bring possible damaging impacts for Earth," Stephen Volz, Ph.D., Assistant Administrator for NOAA's Satellite and Information Service explained in a statement.

You are likely familiar with how large solar flares (M-class or higher) can warp radio waves and trigger moderate radiation storms that can disrupt communications. However, strong enough flares rife with magnetic force can also disrupt magnetic navigation and even energize ground induced currents (GICs) - which can disrupt power distribution through underground cables. (Scroll to read on...)

An adequate warning for when these storms are coming, and at what strength, could no-doubt help in protecting infrastructure around the world.

"DSCOVR has reached its final orbit and will soon be ready to begin its mission of space weather monitoring for NOAA and Earth observing for NASA," added Al Vernacchio, DSCOVR project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.

In addition to space weather-monitoring instruments, DSCOVR is carrying two NASA Earth-observing instruments that will measurement a range of atmospheric factors from ozone and aerosol amounts - all of which can help determine radical shifts in Earth's climate.

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