August 30, 2016 – This week marked the beginning of another eclipse season for the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). During these seasons, the sun is blocked from SDO’s view by Earth several times a day.
SDO’s orbit usually gives the observatory unobstructed views of the sun, but Earth’s revolution around the sun means that SDO’s orbit passes behind Earth twice each year, creating eclipse seasons for two to three weeks at a time. The eclipses are fairly short near the beginning and end of the season, but last up to 72 minutes in the middle.
The entire video clip (below) shows the beginning of one such eclipse, covering just seven minutes.
Most spacecraft observing the sun from an orbit around Earth have to contend with eclipses, but SDO’s orbit is designed to minimize them as much as possible.
SDO is designed to study the sun and its impacts on Earth. The spacecraft’s long-term measurements give scientists in-depth information to help characterize the interior of the sun, the sun’s magnetic field, the hot plasma of the solar corona, and the density of radiation that creates the ionosphere of the planets. The information is used to create better forecasts of space weather needed to protect aircraft, satellites, and astronauts living and working in space.
SDO includes an instrument built in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and another built by Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California.
Goddard built, operates and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. SDO is the first mission of NASA’s Living with a Star Program.
SDO was launched on February 11, 2010 aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.