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10 Year Anniversary for Solar Exploration

Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 January 2006 11:25
Published on Friday, 02 December 2005 00:00
sohologo120.gifThe world's flagship solar probe, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), is celebrating 10 years in space on
2nd December.
The 12 instruments on board SOHO probe the Sun's every detail. One, the Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer (CDS), is led from the UK, another was partly built in the UK, and UK scientists are involved in the operations and research of all instruments. SOHO's instruments are monitoring the complex, violent solar atmosphere, the charged gases that the Sun expels into space and examining the solar interior.

"Never before have we had such a detailed view of a star. All life on Earth is dependent on the Sun's energy, and when the Sun ejects clouds into space which engulf the Earth it can have severe consequences for satellite systems, navigation, communication and power distribution systems. We need to understand how the Sun works and how to predict how its activity impacts on the Earth", said Professor Richard Harrison, from the CDS team.

"SOHO has provided us with a comprehensive, detailed examination of a star over an extended period, and has operated superbly during that time. The advances generated by this mission are incredible", commented Professor Len Culhane of the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

The mission has revealed the true nature of the Sun's violent atmosphere as it flings clouds into space and as huge magnetic loops tie themselves in knots to generate solar flare explosions. Scientists have discovered that the solar atmosphere is riddled with Earth-sized explosions and occasional tornadoes and the mission has also revealed how the interior of the Sun rotates. SOHO has even discovered over 1000 comets as they pass close to the Sun - a world record. Sophisticated observations have allowed scientists to monitor the far-side of the Sun and instruments have enabled weather maps of the Sun's atmosphere - probing temperatures, densities, solar wind speeds and even what the Sun is made of, from a distance of 150 million km.

Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive Officer of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, the main funder of the UK involvement in the mission, said "SOHO continues to be a stunning success and over its extended lifetime has provided the scientific community and the public with a wealth of data about the Sun. Its success is testimony to the expertise of the scientists and industrialists, in the US and Europe, including the UK, that have worked on its design and operation."

Notes for editors
SOHO is a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA), of which the UK is a member, and NASA. It was launched on 2 December 1995 and arrived in Lagrangian Point L1 (where the Sun's gravitational force and the Earth's are in balance) in February 1996.

The Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer was built, and is operated by, a team led from Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and including the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, with operations run from a mission control facility at RAL, through the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center. The LASCO instrument was led from the US Naval Research Laboratory and was partly built at the University of Birmingham. Science highlights from CDS over the past decade can be found at

SOHO website -
SOHO images
UK CDS instrument website -
MSSL website -
PPARC website -

SOHO's celebration event will be held at the CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on Friday 2 December. For further information contact
Natalie Bealing, RAL Public Relations Officer, Tel: 01235 445484
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Julia Maddock
Press Officer, PPARC
Tel: 01793 442094
Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Professor Richard A Harrison, Head of Space Physics
Space Science and Technology Department
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Chilton, Didcot
Oxfordshire OX11 0QX
Tel: 01235 44 6884 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Professor Len Culhane
Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London
Holmbury St Mary
Surrey RH5 6NT
Tel: 01483 204139 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils is one
of eight UK research councils and is one of Europe's largest multidisciplinary research organisations supporting scientists and engineers across the world. It operates world-class large-scale research facilities, provides strategic advice to the government on their development and manages international research projects in support of a broad cross-section of the UK research community.

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) is the UK's strategic science investment agency. It funds research, education and public understanding in four areas of science - particle physics, astronomy, cosmology and space science.

PPARC is government funded and provides research grants and studentships to scientists in British universities, gives researchers access to world-class facilities and funds the UK membership of international bodies such as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), and the European Space Agency. It also contributes money for the UK telescopes overseas on La Palma, Hawaii, Australia and in Chile, the UK Astronomy Technology Centre at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh and the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility, which includes the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank observatory.

PPARC's Public Understanding of Science and Technology Awards Scheme funds both small local projects and national initiatives aimed at improving public understanding of its areas of science.

Julia Maddock
Community Press Officer
Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council
Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN2 1SZ
Tel: +44 (0)1793 442094, Mobile 07901 514975
Fax +44 (0)1793 442002
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.