Dr. Joe Gurman of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center provides commentary on selected shots from SOHO’s 20 years in space.
After 20 years in space, ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, is still going strong. Originally launched in 1995 to study the sun and its influence out to the very edges of the solar system, SOHO revolutionized this field of science, known as heliophysics, providing the basis for nearly 5,000 scientific papers. SOHO also found an unexpected role as the greatest comet hunter of all time—reaching 3,000 comet discoveries in September 2015.
When SOHO was launched on Dec. 2, 1995, the field of heliophysics looked very different than it does today. Questions about the interior of the sun, the origin of the constant outflow of material from the sun known as the solar wind, and the mysterious heating of the solar atmosphere were still unanswered. Twenty years later, not only do we have a much better idea about what powers the sun, but our entire understanding of how the sun behaves has changed.