Wednesday, January 04, 2012

SOHO Mission "Pick of the Week" Hits Impressive Milestone


November 22-28, 2011: The Sun produced about a dozen coronal mass ejections (CMEs) in eight days. The SOHO C2 coronagraph shows the storms (both large and small) blasting out in different directions. The Sun itself taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme UV light was scaled appropriately and superimposed on the coronagraph for the same time period. Credit: SOHO/SDO. Download video - Download still

In late November, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory's (SOHO) online "Pick of the Week" reached an impressive milestone: its 500th edition. This is an incredibly popular feature, which highlights one video or image of the sun each week.

The SOHO project is a cooperative effort between the European Space Agency and NASA. SOHO was designed to study the internal structure of the Sun, its extensive outer atmosphere and the origin of the solar wind, the stream of highly ionized gas that blows continuously outward through the Solar System.

The SOHO "Pick of the Week" (POTW) began in September 2001, about five years after the start of SOHO operations. The team has produced roughly 50 images per year since that time. The series started with a request for a weekly image or video clip to be sent to the American Museum of Natural History's Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York City. The museum displays the SOHO weekly picks along with a description on a video wall. Each POTW is also sent via the museum's AstroBulletins to about 20-30 other museums and science centers, and since early 2007 to more than 300 additional venues which are part of the Hubble Space Telescope's ViewSpace kiosk program.

When the twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft were launched in 2006, their data was also included in POTW features, depending on which event or topic seemed to have wider appeal. Steele Hill of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is the originator and producer of this highly successful program. Goddard's Joe Gurman, SOHO and STEREO project scientist, has supported this effort from its initial concept and provides comments on the content as each selection is developed. SOHO's webmaster George Dimitoglou of Goddard has been instrumental in ensuring the images, videos and captions get uploaded to the SOHO website.

"I was pleasantly surprised at this news," said Hill. "I just kept selecting and producing them each week and, wow, the total really added up fast. What a great experience it has been for me to be a part of this ground-breaking and long-lived mission." NASA launched SOHO and is responsible for mission operations. Large radio dishes around the world which form NASA's Deep Space Network are used for data downlink and commanding. Mission control is based at NASA Goddard.

To view the current POTW and past entries, visit:
To learn more about the SOHO mission, visit:

Susan Hendrix
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD