Archive for category News

Normal Helioviewer services now resumed

Full Helioviewer Project services originating at NASA –, JHelioviewer and the Helioviewer API – are now back up and running. Over the next couple of days we will be backfilling in missing data from the period October 1 – 17, 2013. Thanks to our colleagues at the Space Influences Data Center (SIDC) at the Royal Observatory of Belgium for providing Helioviewer services in that period.

JHelioviewer users who edited their user profile files to use the ROB server can switch back to using Helioviewer services at NASA by removing the edits

We thank you for your patience over the past couple of weeks.

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Over one million movies created

We’ve reached an amazing milestone thanks to you, our users. Users of and Jhelioviewer have created over one million movies since we started counting them in February 2011. This represents an incredible amount of interest from you – our users – in the Sun and the inner heliosphere. We’d like to thank you for your continued interest in exploring our star and its influence in interplanetary space.

The millionth movie was of one hour’s worth of data from the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) on SDO, focusing on this small but fast ejection from the Sun.

This led to a faint and extended coronal mass ejection seen in LASCO C2.

The coronal mass ejection was noticed in many different online catalogs of features and events in the Sun, but the original eruption was not. This is an example of how users are finding events on the Sun which are sometimes overlooked.

Just before the millionth movie, someone made this movie of one week of solar activity. This movie shows many different flares and eruptions of all sizes over the course of a week. Also, about 10 seconds into the movie (beginning around 2013-04-17 16:30 UT), you can see that black edges appear on all sides of the field of view. This is caused by the SDO spacecraft pointing slightly away from the center of the Sun for short periods of time. SDO does this to enable measurements of the AIA and HMI detectors. These measurements are a regular and normal part of running the AIA and HMI instruments, and allow us to keep track of the degradation of the detectors.

We’ll be adding new functionality and datasets to the Helioviwer Project in the next few months. We are committed to making it easy for everyone everywhere to explore the Sun and inner heliosphere, in the way you want. We hope that you continue to enjoy using and Jhelioviewer. If you have any ideas on how we can improve our service, please let us know.

Finally we’d like to thank the many NASA, ESA and JAXA funded organizations that have made the Helioviewer Project possible.


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Yohkoh SXT full disk images now available

We are happy to announce the availability of full disk Yohkoh Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT) images on SXT images x-rays from the Sun, and therefore looked at some of the hottest plasmas on the Sun. These data are important in trying to understand solar flares and the heating of the Sun’s corona.

Yohkoh (“Sunshine”) was launched in August 30, 1991, from the Kagoshima Space Center (Uchinoura) in Japan, and was a project of the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). The scientific objective was to observe the energetic phenomena taking place on the Sun, specifically solar flares in x-ray and gamma-ray emissions.


Yohkoh carried four instruments to detect energetic emissions from the Sun: the Soft X-Ray Telescope (SXT), the Hard X-Ray Telescope (HXT), the Bragg Crystal Spectrometer (BCS) and the Wide Band Spectrometer (WBS). A team from the United States collaborated on SXT, and teams from the United States and the United Kingdom collaborated on BCS.

SXT imaged X-rays in the 0.25 – 4.0 keV range. SXT used thin metallic filters to acquire images in restricted portions of the energy range. We are making images from the thin aluminium filter (thin-Al), and the aluminium-magnesium-manganese filter (AlMgMn) available. White-light images are also available up until November 1992. An example thin-aluminium image is shown below.


SXT could resolve features down to 2.5 arc seconds in size. Information about the temperature and density of the plasma emitting the observed x-rays was obtained by comparing images acquired with the different filters. Flare images could be obtained every 2 seconds. Smaller images with a single filter could be obtained as frequently as once every 0.5 seconds.

Yohkoh ceased operations on December 14, 2001. The SXT images we are making available cover portions of Solar Cycles 22 and 23 (we are currently somewhere close to the maximum of Solar Cyce 24). This historical data allows us to compare current solar behavior to previous solar behavior. Such studies allow us to better understand how the Sun operates on timescales of decades and longer.

Yohkoh SXT images are the first images of soft X-ray data available on We hope you enjoy examining this different view of the Sun on

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Planned Helioviewer Outage Beginning 25 September, 21:00 UT

All Helioviewer Project services will be brought down beginning at approximately 21:00 UT on 25th September 2012. This is a planned outage, and is required to perform necessary maintenance. and the JHelioviewer server at the Goddard Spaceflight Center will be unavailable. Helioviewer Project images used by third party applications will also be unavailable. We expect to return to normal service at approximateky 13:00 UT on 26th September 2012. We apologize for this necessary but brief interruption in our services.

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Coding Opportunities for Students: JHelioviewer and SunPy join ESA’s Summer of Code in Space

ESA Summer of Code in Space 2012 (SOCIS) is a program run by the European Space Agency. It offers student developers stipends to write code for various space-related open source software projects. Through SOCIS, students will be paired with mentors from participating project teams, thus gaining exposure to real-world software development. The program is inspired by (but not affiliated or related in any way to) Google’s Summer of Code initiative.

JHelioviewer, in collaboration with the start-up company Luxunda, and SunPy have been selected as mentoring organizations, and students are encouraged to apply until 27 July 2012 (11 am UTC).

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The Sun Today: Double Blast – Exciting Space Weather from AR11429

Dr. Alex Young over at The Sun Today posted a really nice video describing the multiple flares and CMEs from this morning. Definitely worth a watch if you want to know what is going on during the eruptions and the impact it is having on Earth.


Update 2012/03/07

Here are a couple more related videos from LittleSDO:

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Service resumed; geomagnetic storm predicted for Tuesday January 24th

As you will already know since you are reading this, Helioviewer Project services have now returned to nominal operations earlier than anticipated. Thanks to all those concerned for their work and for keeping the downtime to a minimum!

Just before our scheduled outage, many of our users caught sight of a flaring active region (videos below). Well, since then the Solar Weather Prediction Center

“has issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch with G2 level storming likely and G3 level storming possible, with the storm continuing into Wednesday, Jan 25. All of this activity is related to a moderate (R2) Radio Blackout x-ray flare that erupted Sunday night (11pm EST).”

which the self-same flaring event spotted by our users. This is a developing story – please consult the Solar Weather Prediction Center for more updates on the progress of the storm. There is great animation of the predicted progress of the coronal mass ejection through interplanetary space as it comes towards Earth here. Geomagnetic storms are temporary disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field; this one is predicted to be moderate, possibly strong. On average, there are a few of these every year; the good news is that if you haven’t noticed one before, you’re probably not going to notice this one.

I’ve included some videos of the flaring event below, made by Helioviewer users and shared with Helioviewer and YouTube users – thanks everyone!

YouTube user Idontwannastopat6

Nice close-up of the flare in SDO/AIA 304 ansgtrom from YouTube user 666redwater.

YouTube user 666redwater also made a zoomed-out video of this event using the SDO/AIA 131 filter. In this filter you see very different structures compared to SDO/AIA 304 and 171. There are a total of 10 filters of AIA, each of them telling us something different about the structure of the sun’s atmosphere.

YouTube users MeireRuiz7 and usog180 shared these wide-angle SDO/AIA 304 movies.

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Service resumed

We are very pleased to announce that Helioviewer Project services are now back online.

This means that, JHelioviewer, and other applications that use Helioviewer Project services are now available and should be working as before. If you encounter any problems with any of our services please let us know. We are currently filling in missing data from 2011/08/05 through to 2011/09/16, and we ask for your patience during the next couple of weeks as we fill in the gaps. If you notice any gaps, please let us know, as we are eager to have as complete a record of solar activity as possible.

We do apologize for the interruption in service. This was caused by two distinct and unfortunately simultaneous hardware malfunctions on our server that took a long time to repair. We are looking exploring options that will ensure such a long break in service does not happen again. We are back now, and we hope you continue to explore your heliosphere!

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2011/06/27 – AIA data availability problems

We apologize for the lack of new images from AIA. This is due to issues outwith our control. We create the images you see from AIA level 1.5 data products (the number refers to the degree of image calibration, etc., that has been applied to the raw data) that are processed at SDO Joint Science Operations Center. As you can see, those data appear to be lagging at the moment. As soon as the data returns, Helioviewer will automatically generate images and make them available.

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Want to know more about the Helioviewer Project?

Helioviewer Logo
Dan Pendick recently posted an excellent series of articles about the Helioviewer Project on his blog, Geeked on Goddard. In five short articles Dan describes many of the different parts of the project, including and JHelioviewer. He also discusses some of the technologies that have made all of this possible. If you are interested in learning more about the project and how it all works, you should definitely check out the articles. Also, if you are a science/tech enthusiast I would highly recommend subscribing to Dan’s blog where you can learn more about some of the other cool projects that call the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center their home.

Topics covered:

Post 1 of 5: Explore the sun on your desktop with Helioviewer
Post 2 of 5: Getting Started with
Post 3 of 5: Explore the sun in depth with JHelioviewer
Post 4 of 5: How it works: building the Helioviewer “back end” with JPEG2000
Post 5 of 5: Helioviewer’s future: an Internet for solar image data

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High quality STEREO images now available

We are pleased to announce that the most recent, high quality STEREO images are now available on

The STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) mission is very different from the other missions (Solar Dynamics Observatory and SOHO) we feature on

First off, there are two spacecraft, called STEREO-A and STEREO-B. Both spacecraft orbit the Sun at roughly 1 AU (astronomical unit), or about as far away from Sun as the Earth is. However, STEREO-A is moving ahead of the Earth in its orbit, and STEREO-B is drifting behind the Earth in its orbit. This means that each STEREO spacecraft sees different parts of the Sun, parts that we can’t see from Earth. STEREO-B sees features on the Sun that we eventually see in SDO and SOHO, and STEREO-A allows us to see the continuing evolution of features that we did see in SDO and SOHO.

This plot shows where each spacecraft is now:

As you can see, they are quite far away from the Earth. This puts some operational constraints on each spacecraft that means we get high-quality images two days after they were taken. These are the data we are making available today; images from June 1st 2011, up to the most recently available data will be available initially. We ask for your patience, as we are uploading these images right now. Over the course of the next few weeks we will be making images from earlier in the mission available so that you can explore the Sun from many different angles over the past 4 1/2 years.

The benefit of seeing the Sun from many different angles is apparent when you look at the following three videos of the prominence eruption of June 7, 2011. The first one consists of images from SDO-AIA and SOHO-LASCO

We hope you enjoy these new images! As ever, please let us know if you spot any problems.

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Sneak peak at STEREO data…

We’re working on including data from NASA’s STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory, mission. It’s a mission consisting of two spacecraft, one drifting ahead of the Earth, and drifting behind, taking images of the Sun and the inner heliosphere. The concept behind the mission is to view the Sun as a three-dimensional object, from which we can better understand its surface structures and how it influences the inner heliosphere. This is the view from STEREO-A, and this is the view of the same event from STEREO-B. Both movies are of coronagraph data taken with the COR2 instrument; both STEREO spacecraft have the same instrument suites onboard.

We hope to have a stream of the very latest STEREO images very soon. Watch this space!

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FYI: LASCO images

Some of you may have noticed that recent LASCO C2 images are upside down. You can notice this quite easily, as the streamer belts in LASCO C2 do not line up with the streamer belts in LASCO C3. This is due to an error in the way we write out LASCO C2 images. We are diagnosing the problem and will rewrite the affected images shortly. This in itself will be delayed due to the fact that the machine which writes out new LASCO C2 and C3 images will be offline for a couple of days. We apologize for the interruption to our service in the delivery of good quality new and recent LASCO images. Older LASCO images are unaffected, as are HMI and AIA images.

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Moon nibbles Sun: a partial eclipse of the Sun by the Moon as seen by SDO.

Today the Moon is passing across the field of view of AIA on board SDO. AIA sees this as a partial obscuration of the disk of the Sun. If you look at an AIA image near 15:00 UTC (March 04, 2011) you can clearly see that a big round object – our Moon – is blocking a portion of the solar disk, and some off disk-emission.

A partial eclipse of the Sun by the Moon as seen by SDO

Moon nibbles Sun: a partial eclipse of the Sun by the Moon as seen by SDO

If you zoom in to the image, you can see that the edge is not perfectly circular. Those are mountains and valleys on the Moon seen in silhouette.

This partial eclipse of the Sun as seen by SDO was expected, since we know the orbits of SDO, AIA, the Sun and the Moon. You can find out more about the eclipses SDO will see (and has seen) by checking out the SDO operations calendar.

As well as being stunning displays of orbital mechanics, partial eclipses of the Sun by the Moon are also very useful in helping us understand the data we are taking with AIA. If you look closely at where the disk of the Moon meets the Sun, you can see a little bit of color is in the dark disk of the Moon. Since we know that the Moon does not emit radiation (and it is not transparent!), the light causing that little bit of color must have come from the Sun. The only way that light could appear to have come from the Moon is due to slight imperfections in the telescope. By measuring how much light leaks from the bits of the image where the Sun is, over to the bits of the image where the Moon is, we can characterize the imperfections in the telescope. And once we have done that, we can use that to improve the images by enhancing the image to take out the effects of the telescope imperfections.

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JHelioviewer 2.1.3 is out

The latest JHelioviewer update adds support for SDO/HMI data and features a new contrast filter, as well as an improved plugin to access the Heliophysics Event Knowledgebase (HEK).

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