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The @stro object for the week of 05/01/2000

image of the Sun by SOHO
images courtesy of SOHO

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, is a solar research satellite jointly operated by the European Space Agency and NASA. It has helped us to understand the interactions between the Sun and the Earth's environment better than has been possible to date. SOHO was pushed up through and out of our atmosphere by a two stage Atlas-IIAS rocket on December 2, 1995. SOHO operates from a position 1.5 million kilometers ahead of the Earth in a halo orbit around the "L1 Lagrangian point" resulting in an uninterrupted view of the Sun.

The Science

SOHO contains several scientific instruments and cameras from which it captures images of the Sun. These cameras take pictures in H-Alpha, Iron, Calcium, the visible spectrum and other wavelengths of the spectrum. In addition, the onboard science packages are studying the solar interior, exterior, atmosphere, and solar wind. SOHO instruments produce a data stream of up to 200 kilobits per second that can be transmitted continuously to the DSN stations of Goldstone (USA), Canberra (Australia) and Madrid (Spain), when each is visible from SOHO due to the daily rotation of the Earth. Data from SOHO is also used to provide warnings of impending solar storms that might affect communications and other electrical equipment here on Earth.

SOHO as a Planetary Telescope

LASCO C3 Thumbnail
image courtesy of SOHO

You've probably already heard that several of the planets are within 25 degrees of each other in the sky from our perspective on and around May 5th, 2000 (and no - our planet will not self-destruct as a result). We can't see this alignment because it is occurring on the other side of the Sun from us, but we can view some of the planets with the help of SOHO (as of 05/03/2000). Go to select the LASCO C3 image. According to Dennis Mammana of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center the bright planets in the image are Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury from left to right respectively. You can also check out the MPEG movie page at and select C3 and view the planets actually moving in their orbits or you can download one of the example movies by clicking here (credit SOHO).

Current information for SOHO:
Mass: 610 kg
Length: 3.65 m
Width: 3.65 m
Width with solar cells deployed: 9.5m

For more information visit:

Official SOHO page...

Real-time SOHO images...

More on the mission...

SOHO Science operations...

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