This is the Solar Dynamics Observatory Mission blog. It will consist of mission status, news, and event updates.
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.
During the maneuver science data may be missing or blurry.
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.
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!
Here are other planned maneuvers through the rest of 2018.
The pair of Lunar Transits on September 9th and 10th are separated by approximately 4 hours 22 minutes, so they are considered separate events. However, the relative motion of SDO and the Moon cause what could be a single transit to split into two. We will discuss this more as we approach the transits.
The sun and moon will be separated by 0.604° on August 21, 2018. (The Sun is 0.5° across, so the Moon is not in the field of view of the SDO images.) This is not close enough to be flagged as a transit, but the proximity may be of interest.
The RGO is best known to solar scientists as the place where sunspot pictures were made from 1874 until 1976. Those photographs have been used by many scientists to understand how sunspots behave. Having photographs allows us to go back and remeasure the sunspot properties to see if something was missed.
Annie Maunder studied the Sun at RGO. She worked with her husband (E. Walter Maunder) for many years. After they were married she was unable to get paid for her work but continued her research into the Sun, sunspots, and whether the Sun affected our climate.
Along the way, she helped develop the Butterfly Diagram (1904 and 1922), wrote a popular book on the Sun (1908), and examined the Maunder Minimum, the period from 1645 to 1715 when few sunspots were seen and the climate in England was colder than average (1894). She traveled to far-flung places and photographed solar eclipses, all at a time when women were not supposed to do such things. Her outstanding research led to her election as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1916, the first female ever to be admitted to the Society.journal article. It is easy to see that sunspots follow a pattern. They start at higher latitudes at the beginning of the cycle and form at lower and lower latitudes as the sunspot cycle continues. There is nothing special about solar maximum either (the two thick lines mark solar maximum for Solar Cycles 12 and 13.) Sunspots continue to appear closer to the equator until solar minimum. Then the cycle repeats. David Hathaway to generate a modern butterfly diagram. The thick dashed line shows when RGO stopped taking data in 1976 and the US Air Force tool over. The data set continues until 2016 when Hathaway retired. Each sunspot cycle is a little different, but they all share the high latitude to low latitude progression.
We still use the butterfly diagram to study the Sun. Any paper studying the solar dynamo will probably include one just to show how well their model works. We also can use helioseismology to generate butterfly diagrams inside the Sun. These show that sunspot cycles start much earlier than sunspots can measure.
My thanks and appreciation to Annie Maunder. Please go and use the AMAT at RGO soon!