Earth’s Eye On The Sun!

The SOHO (SOlar Heliospheric Observatory) spacecraft is a joint project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA designed as a space-based observatory, viewing and investigating the Sun from its halo orbit around the Earth – Sun L1 point which is 1.5 million kilometres from Earth. From the Sun’s core through to its outer atmosphere the corona (the source of the solar winds) and beyond.


Fast Summary Facts About SOHO!

  • Type:  L1 Orbiter
  • Destination:  Earth – Sun L1 point
  • Status:  Active
  • Launch Location:  Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Launch Date:  December 2nd 1995
  • Arrival Date:  December 14th 1995
  • Mission Duration:  3 years planned life, 23 years in total (with extensions)

Fun Facts About The SOHO Mission!

  • The name SOHO is an acronym that stands for Solar Heliospheric Observatory.
  • The spacecraft was designed to study the internal structure of our the Sun, its boiling outer layers and atmosphere which are the origin of the solar winds (the ionized gases which blow outwards throughout the Solar System) which interact with Earth’s magnetosphere and upper atmosphere.
  • The SOHO spacecraft operates from a permanent vantage point 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, towards the Sun, orbiting in what is called a halo orbit around the Lagrangian point L1 every 6 month.
  • Several other space-based observatories (notably the DSCOVR spacecraft) orbit the L1 point and monitor space weather in Earth’s vicinity in real-time.
  • At launch, SOHO weighed approximately 1,850 kilograms (4,080 lbs) (which included its station-keeping propellant) and was launched aboard an Atlas II rocket.
  • The probe utilizes solar panels for power generation (generating 1,500 Watts).
  • SOHO main spacecraft body measures 3.65 m x 3.65 m (12 x 12 feet) with its solar panels extending 9.5 m (31 feet).
  • SOHO gave scientist their first long-term uninterrupted view of the Sun.
  • This uninterrupted view of the Sun has enabled SOHO to become a prolific comet spotter, having discovered over 3,000 comets!
  • In 1998 SOHO suffered a malfunction and disappeared for 4 months before scientist could resurrect the spacecraft back to fully operational status.
  • The initial science mission lasted 2 years, with further extensions totalling 21 years of in-orbit investigations – amazing!
  • Communications with Earth is via the NASA run Deep Space Network.
  • The SOHO mission has cost a total of around 1 billion Euros! WOW, space exploration can be really expensive!
SOHO Spacecraft
Pleiades Planets Plasma
SOHO Sun filament
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