Eclipse Season Begins For NASA’s SDO

Image Credit: NASA/SDO

Image Credit: NASA/SDO

March 1, 2016 – The 2016 spring eclipse season of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory began February 19, 2016. These seasons – a time when Earth blocks SDO’s view of the sun for a period of time each day – last around three weeks and happen twice a year near the equinoxes.

The eclipses are fairly short near the beginning and end of the season but ramp up to 72 minutes in the middle. Most spacecraft observing the sun from an orbit around Earth have to contend with such eclipses, but SDO’s orbit is designed to minimize them as much as possible, as they block observations of the sun. The spring season will end on March 12, 2016.

This animation was made with images taken in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths of 304 angstroms on February 22, 2016. This type of light is typically invisible to our eyes, but is colorized here in red. The boundaries of Earth blocking the sun are not perfectly sharp, since the sun’s light is able to shine through Earth’s atmosphere in some places.

SDO is a 3-axis stabilized spacecraft, with two solar arrays, and two high-gain antennas. The spacecraft includes three instruments: the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) built in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) built in partnership with Stanford University, and the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) built in partnership with the Lockheed Martin Solar & Astrophysics Laboratory. Data collected by the spacecraft is made available as soon as possible after it is received.

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. The program’s goal is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society.

SDO was launched on February 11, 2010 aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.