For a quarter of a century, ESA-NASA’s Solar and Heliosphere Observatory (SOHO) has been of vital importance to scientists in understanding the heart of our solar cycles – the sun.
Watch 25 years of solar cycles in an incredible video: The SOHO mission started 25 years ago this week. To celebrate this, ESA has put together a wonderful mosaic of images, and NASA has put together a remarkable SOHO time-lapse video of the biggest hits.
« SOHO was a cornerstone of modern Solar Cycles and launched many careers, including my own, » said Professor Peter Gallagher, Director of the Dunsink Observatory in Dublin, Ireland and Head of Astrophysics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies ( DIAS).
« My research group – and many others – continue to use SOHO data 25 years later. It’s an amazing mission. ”
SOHO was founded on 2. Introduced December 1995 and was only designed to last for two years. However, the spaceship proved to be a workhorse, and the mission was so successful that ESA and NASA decided to extend their lives several times and grant multiple mission extensions.
Astrophysicist Karl Battams, who is the lead researcher for one of SOHO’s instruments, the LASCO coronagraph, said on Twitter that his professor of solar physics told us during his undergraduate studies (around 2001) that if we had solar phys textbooks published before SOHO, we shouldn’t use them for their class. SOHO has literally rewritten the books on solar physics! “
The mission was started to take a comprehensive look at our sun. It was specially developed to understand the flow of energy and materials in the sun – the solar wind and coronal mass ejections.
The main goals were to determine the structure and dynamics of the solar interior, to learn more about the solar corona and to find out where the solar wind is generated and how it is accelerated.
SOHO’s scientific payload includes 12 complementary instruments (see list of instruments here) developed and provided by an international consortium of 29 institutes from 15 countries.
More than 1. 500 scientists in countries around the world are either directly involved in SOHO’s instruments or have used SOHO data in their research programs.
LASCO, the large-angle and spectrometric coronagraph, recorded over 1. 5 million images since the mission began. During a Reddit AMA this week to celebrate the anniversary, Battams was asked if he has any favorite pictures.
« There have been so many stunning images that I absolutely cannot choose a single one, » he said. But he highlighted two favorites. The first comes from the LASCO C2 coronagraph and was added in 1998, [above]. It shows a stunning helical structure in a coronal mass ejection (CME).
The second shows a CME approaching comet C / 2002 V1 (NEAT) in 2003. « This was a rare case where the CME actually went right over the comet and we saw a little interaction between the CME and the comet’s tail, » Battams said during the AMA.
“CMEs are structurally completely harmless to comets, but the magnetic field embedded in them can play around with dust in the comet’s tails. ”
But there haven’t been a few exciting incidents in SOHO’s 25 years. Two and a half years after launch, in June 1998, the mission nearly ended after a routine spacecraft maneuver.
Contact was lost and the mission was considered over. But the engineering and science teams worked tediously for three months and eventually used a technique called bistatic radar to find and re-establish contact with SOHO.
They used the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to send a signal to SOHO, and one of the Deep Space Network bowls in Goldstone, California acted as a receiver, located the echo from the spacecraft and tracked it using radar techniques.
The team managed to get the mission back online, with all the instruments surviving the extreme temperatures of the power failure. The rescue was one of the most dramatic rescues in space, perhaps second only to Apollo 13.
But then – just a month after the spacecraft was back online – all three stabilizing gyroscopes on the spacecraft failed and started a new race against time to save the mission. The team developed new software that could control SOHO without gyroscopes, and the spaceship became fully functional again.
Since then, SOHO has been a fixture and now works with other solar missions such as the Solar Dynamics Observatory, STEREO and the Parker Solar Probe. The SOHO team hopes that in five years we can celebrate more new images and dates for the mission’s 30th anniversary.
On Monday, the HEC announced an international scholarship for doctoral students as part of its Research Support Initiative Program (IRSIP). . The
Solar cycle, solar and heliosphere observatory, Sun, NASA
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