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ESA Extends SOHO Mission

This image of the Sun was taken by SOHO's EIT (Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope) instrument on 23 May 2006. EIT can take images of the solar atmosphere at several wavelengths, and therefore it is able to show solar material at different temperatures. In the images taken at 304 Angstroms the bright material is at 60 000 to 80 000 �C. In those taken at 171, at one million degrees; 195 Angstrom images correspond to about 1.5 million �C; 284 Angstrom, to 2 million degrees. The hotter the temperature, the higher you look in the solar atmosphere. Credits: ESA, NASA, SOHO/EIT team
by Staff Writers
Paris, France (SPX) May 25, 2006
ESA announced Wednesday it has approved additional funding for its Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, allowing the spacecraft's mission to be extended from April 2007 to December 2009.

Since its launch on Dec. 2, 1995, SOHO has provided an unprecedented view of the Sun � including the side facing away from Earth, ESA said in a statement. Two teams have now developed techniques for using SOHO to recreate the conditions on the far side of the Sun.

In all, five new solar spacecraft will join SOHO in orbit over the next few years, and ESA is involved in the development of two of the satellites. Solar B, underway for ISAS/JAXA, is scheduled to launch later this year. ESA will supply the use of a ground station at Svalbard, Norway, in exchange for access to the data.

Next year, ESA will launch Proba-2, a technology-demonstration satellite carrying solar instruments. The spacecraft it will carry a complementary instrument to SOHO's EIT camera, which concentrates on the origin and early development of solar eruptions. Proba-2's camera will be able to track them into space.

NASA plans to launch its STEREO pair of spacecraft later this year, and the Solar Dynamics Orbiter in 2008. SOHO will provide a critical third point of view to assist the analysis of STEREO's observations.

Also, SOHO's coronagraph will remain unique. The instrument is capable of blotting out the glare from the Sun so the star's tenuous outer atmosphere becomes visible for study.

"By next year, we will have a fleet of spacecraft studying the Sun," said Hermann Opgenoorth, ESA's head of solar system missions division. This will advance the International Living With a Star program, an international collaboration of scientists dedicated to a long-term study of the Sun and its effects on Earth and the other solar system planets.

ILWS could culminate in the launch of the advanced ESA satellite, Solar Orbiter, around 2015, which is designed to travel close to the Sun to gain a close-up look at the processes at work at its heart.

Meanwhile, SOHO continues to monitor solar activity and allow scientists to see inside the Sun by recording seismic waves that ripple across its surface.

More than 2,300 scientists have used data from the solar observatory for their research, resulting in more than 2,400 scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals. During the last two years, at least one SOHO paper has been accepted for publication every working day.

"This mission extension will allow SOHO to cement its position as the most important spacecraft in the history of solar physics," said Bernhard Fleck, a SOHO project scientist. "There is a lot of valuable work for this spacecraft still to do."

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