Thursday, September 20, 2018

Nice Video of Solar Cycle 24 Eruptions

Can't get enough solar eruptions, especially from SDO? Here's a nice video from the Solar-Terrestrial Center of Excellence in Brussels, Belgium. They call it Spectacular Solar Eruptions during Solar Cycle 24. Many of my favorite eruptions are included, along with others that might become your favorite. Videos from STEREO, SOHO, and Proba2 are also included.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

SDO Maneuvers September 12, 2018

Between 1315 and 1900 UTC (9:15 am - 3 pm ET) On September 12, 2018, SDO performed the EVE field of view and HMI/AIA flat field maneuvers. During the maneuvers science data may be blurry, displaced, or missing. The near-real-time images on the SDO website are now corrected for the spacecraft motion and almost always show a centered Sun.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The September 9-10 Double Lunar Transits

SDO will experience a double lunar transit on September 9 and 10, 2018. Here is a movie from the Flight Operations Team that shows SDO, the Sun, and the Moon during the transits. During the first transit, from 2030-2130 UT (4:30-5:30 pm ET) on September 9, the Moon will cover up to 92% of SDO's view of the Sun. The second transit lasts from 0152-0241 UT on September 10 (or 9:52-10:41 pm ET on September 9 for those of us on the East coast of the USA.) Only 34% of the Sun will be covered by the Moon.

The Moon moves from left to right during the first transit and right to left for the second. The first transit is caused by SDO overtaking the Moon as SDO moves in the afternoon part of its orbit. (SDO orbits over the Mountain Time Zone of the USA.) SDO's velocity of about 3 km/s is faster than the Moon's of 1 km/s and SDO overtakes and moves past the Moon-Sun line. The second transit happens after SDO has moved into the evening part of the orbit and is now moving mostly away from the Moon in SDO's orbit around the Earth. The Moon's velocity takes it past the Sun and the shadow appears to move from right to left.

During the total solar eclipse last year the Moon's shadow moved from the West coast of the US towards the East. This is because the speed of the rotation of the Earth (less than 0.5 km/s) is slower than the speed of the Moon. That means the motion of the Moon overtakes the motion of the Earth. The shadow follows the Moon and moves from West to East, like the second transit.

Although you can see the Moon throughout the movie SDO's instruments cannot see the Moon when it is not covering the Sun. The little white flash seen in the Moon is the word "Moon" being written by the software and then quickly covered. The boxes drawn around and on the Sun help the FOT run the spacecraft. The time is displayed in the lower left corner of the movie. The first seven numbers are the year (2018) and the day of year (252 and 253). The six numbers after the period are the hour, minutes, and second of UTC (2 numbers each).

When I first saw this movie I thought we were going to talk about retrograde motion. Other planets, especially Mars, move in retrograde as the Earth moves past them with our faster orbital velocity. But it isn't just that. The first transit is like retrograde motion as SDO passes by the Moon-Sun line with its faster velocity and the Moon appears to move backwards. But the second transit happens because SDO is moving mostly away from and a little in the opposite direction of the Moon.

This double transit shows how complicated the motions of objects can appear even as they move along simple orbits.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Power Interruption Today

The website will be unavailable today from 7:00 am - noon ET while work on the electrical supply to the building takes place.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Station Keeping Maneuver #17 is Today

SDO will perform Station Keeping (or Delta-V) Maneuver #17 today between 2200-2250 UTC (6:00-6:50 p.m. ET). This maneuver is used to keep SDO inside its box in the geosynchronous belt. SDO thrusters will expel 82 grams of propellant to complete the maneuver.

During the maneuver science data may be missing or blurry.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Comet Offpoint Test Looked Great!

The comet offpoint test SDO ran very smoothly yesterday. Here is an AIA 171 Å image from 1441 UTC (10:41 am ET). The image of the Sun has been shifted back to the middle of the frame so the offpoint doesn't look so jarring in the daily movies.

If this had been a real comet observation the scientists would want to examine the missing right-hand side for the comet tail. AIA 171 Å was our best channel for looking at the comets.

My thanks to the SDO Flight Operations Team for making the test look easy.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Comet Offpoint Test, August 8, 2018

Tomorrow morning, from 1430-1505 UTC (10:30-11:05 ET), SDO will perform a comet offprint test maneuver. This is only a test, there is no comet that will be visible. However, it has been almost 6 years since we performed such a maneuver and its good to keep in practice. We only get a day or two notice when a Kreutz sun-grazing comet might be visible. This test allows us to put the instructions in a easy to access location for the next comet.

The Sun will appear to shift to the left during the test. That means it is useful for Kreutz comets in July and August, when the comets appear to come from the right and pass across the face of the Sun. Some science data, such as magnetograms and Dopplergrams, will not be produced while the Sun is shifted from the center of the images.

When a sun-grazing comet arrives, we will be ready to go comet watching!