It was a rainy, dark, swampy day in DC--perfect weather for the big reveal of the first set of data and images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory--the solar probe that'll tell us more about our star's surface, atmosphere, and magnetic field than we've ever seen before.
We were graciously invited to attend by @NASA_SDO--the twittering module of the Observatory, if you will--and met up with 15 other space-minded tweeps to tour the National Air and Space Museum and then see the press conference live at the Newseum in Washington, DC.
Timmy was just excited to be reunited with Camilla, the shrieking chicken mascot of the SDO, who he had
romanced visited at NASA Goddard earlier this month. She wore her special silver knitted suit for the occasion.
So after lunch at the NASA deli (the "House Special" sandwich was surprisingly good if cryptically named, reports @covert_oops), we headed over to the Air and Space Museum for a tour and some of NASA's best-ofs, including the Apollo mission, Hubble, and the device astronauts use in space to eliminate waste. (The bodily kind.) @SpacemanAndy made Timmy hug Hubble.
Then we hustled over to the SDO First Light press conference at the Newseum. The building was incredible and they'd set up the huge screen downstairs to show the new images live, right there in the press conference.
There were audible gasps when they showed us some of the first images of our favorite star.
It was fun watching the NASA scientists explain their part in the project and what they've discovered with SDO. They were professional, but clearly giddy in that geeking-out sort of way when you forget if anyone cares and you just want to talk about what you love to do.
Even better, they'd watch their colleagues as they spoke and nod in assent--or furrow their brows, as if they thought something could have been said better. Scientists ftw.
When asked by the public why SDO exists at all, and if we should be studying the sun in the first place, Dr. Lika Guhathakurta said, "It's spewing out solar winds at a million miles per hour. ...If we don't study the sun, what should we study?" They summed up their feelings at the end: excitement, awe, and relief that it worked so well. They basically opened the doors of SDO and blammo, amazing data. Nice work, SDO team!
There's lots more jaw-dropping pics at the SDO website, and of course there's a ton of news stories, including CNN (video), National Geographic (photo slideshow), New Scientist, and WIRED. And there's our humble Flickr pool.
Many, many thanks to Aleya of @NASA_SDO fame for making the tweetup happen. We enjoyed hanging out with everyone and have thus constructed a You May Want to Follow Them list: @NASA_SDO @NASA_Hubble @SpacePlumr @airandspace @geeksdreamgirl @nmnh @kebba44 @shortwave @disconn3ct @privong @covert_oops @gramodog @tonyjhoffman @jclamont @jimcook310 @h2ojewel @violethearts.