NASA’s SDO Performs Calibration Maneuvers

Images from NASA’s SDO during a routine EVE cruciform maneuver show the sun dodging in and out of the frame. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng

Images from NASA’s SDO during a routine EVE cruciform maneuver show the sun dodging in and out of the frame. Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng

November 13, 2016 – On October 19, 2016, operators instructed NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) to look up and down and then side to side over the course of six hours, as if tracing a great plus sign in space. This particular maneuver is the EVE cruciform maneuver, designed to help SDO’s Extreme ultraviolet Variability Experiment, or EVE, take accurate measurements of the sun’s extreme UV emissions.

SDO operators schedule this maneuver twice a year to calibrate the spacecraft’s instruments. Veering motions allow scientists to assess how light travels through SDO’s instruments – whether light is reflected inside the instrument, for example – and how these instruments are changing over time.

During the maneuver, SDO produced some unusual data. Taken every 12 seconds, SDO images show the sun dodging in and out of the frame. SDO captured these images in extreme ultraviolet light, a type of light that is invisible to our eyes. Here, they are colorized in red.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is designed to study the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. The spacecraft’s long-term measurements give solar 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.

Goddard Space Flight Center 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. EVE was built in partnership with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).

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