Sciency Words: SOHO

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Today’s post is part of a special series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Every Friday, we take a look at a new and interesting scientific term to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:


If you want to do any serious research about the Sun, you will soon come across this name: SOHO, short for the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. It is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency). The Europeans built it, NASA launched it into space and is now responsible for operating and maintaining it.

SOHO is positioned between the Sun and Earth, and its mission is to monitor and study solar activity. Launched in December of 1995, SOHO was only supposed to be in operation for about two years, yet despite several malfunctions, the thing is still running nearly two decades later.

Much of what we currently know about the Sun is thanks to SOHO (which is why the name came up so often in my research).

  • SOHO observes activity on the Sun’s surface (like Moreton waves), and it has provided us with the first ever images of what’s going on beneath the surface.
  • SOHO is part of our early warning system, helping protect our technologically advanced civilization in case something like the Carrington Event ever happens again.
  • SOHO samples solar ejecta, allowing us to find out what exactly the Sun is spewing into space.
  • Remember that weird thing about the Sun’s temperature? SOHO is helping investigate that too.

Ja12 SOHOSo as we end our month-long adventures with the Sun, let’s give a big round of applause to the SOHO spacecraft, one of the hardest working spacecraft in the Solar System, and let’s hope that it will miraculously keep working for many years to come.

Starting Monday and continuing throughout the month of February, we will turn our attention to the Planet Mercury.

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