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Sun-Earth Day Presents: Ancient Observatories, Timeless Knowledge

Technology Through Time: Issue #11, SOHO

The best views of the sun are from space where Earth's atmosphere no longer distorts the seeing. Satellites can capture clear images of solar activity, which help scientists understand the complex forces at work.


SoHO = Solar Heliospheric Observatory.
Operated from a permanent vantage point 1.5 million kilometers sunward of the Earth in a halo orbit around the first Lagrangian 'L1' point.


Launched on December 2nd, 1995 SoHO is a joint effort of the European Space Agency and NASA. Its weight at launch was 1850 kilograms. Dimensions: breadth and width: 3.65 x 3.65 meters. With its solar array deployed it spans 9.5 meters from tip to tip. It contains 12 instruments which monitor the solar corona, solar surface, and deep interior on a minute-to-minute basis.


SoHO is designed to study the internal structure of the Sun, its extensive outer atmosphere and the origin of the solar wind, the stream of highly ionized gas that blows continuously outward through the Solar System. SOHO is helping us understand the interactions between the Sun and the Earth's environment better than has been possible to date. Its legacy may enable scientists to solve some of the most perplexing riddles about the Sun, including the heating of the solar corona, the acceleration of the solar wind, and the physical conditions of the solar interior. It will give solar physicists their first long term, uninterrupted view of the mysterious star that we call the Sun. All previous solar observatories have orbited the Earth, from where their observations were periodically interrupted as our planet 'eclipsed' the Sun.



Image Gallery:

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