Sun  ID: 4822

Heliophysics Sentinels 2020

There is a newer version of this story located here:
There have been few changes since the 2018 Heliophysics Fleet. Van Allen Probes and SORCE have been decommissioned, while Solar Orbiter, ICON and SET have been added. As of spring 2020, here's a tour of the NASA Heliophysics fleet from the near-Earth satellites out to the Voyagers beyond the heliopause.

Excepting the Voyager missions, the satellite orbits are color coded for their observing program:

  • Magenta: TIM (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere) observations
  • Yellow: solar observations and imagery
  • Cyan: Geospace and magnetosphere
  • Violet: Heliospheric observations

Near-Earth Fleet:

  • Hinode: Observes the Sun in multiple wavelengths up to x-rays. SVS page
  • TIMED: Studies the upper layers (40-110 miles up) of Earth's atmosphere. SVS page
  • ICON: Works with GOLD on studies of the ionosphere.
  • AIM: Images and measures noctilucent clouds. SVS page
  • IRIS: Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph is designed to take high-resolution spectra and images of the region between the solar photosphere and solar atmosphere. SVS page
  • SET: Space Environment Testbed exploring radiation-hardening technologies

Geosynchronous Fleet:

  • SDO: Solar Dynamics Observatory keeps the Sun under continuous observation at 16 megapixel resolution. SVS page
  • GOLD: Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk is a spectroscopic imager for studying the ionosphere.

Geospace Fleet:

Lunar Orbiting Fleet:

  • THEMIS-ARTEMIS: Two of the THEMIS satellites were moved into lunar orbit to study the interaction of the Earth's magnetosphere with the Moon. SVS page

Sun-Earth Lagrange Point One Fleet:

The L1 point is a Lagrange Point between the Sun and the Earth. Spacecraft can orbit this location for continuous coverage of the Sun.
  • SOHO: Studies the Sun with cameras and a multitude of other instruments. SVS page
  • ACE: Measures the composition and characteristics of the solar wind. SVS page
  • Wind: Measures particle flows and fields in the solar wind. SVS page

Solar Orbiting Fleet:

Interstellar Fleet:

  • Voyager 1 & Voyager 2: The two Voyager spaceraft orbit originally performed flybys of the outer planets of the solar system but continued to operate. They are now the most distant monitors of the plasma in the space between the stars. At the time of this visualization, Voyager 2 has just crossed the heliopause.SVS page

Used Elsewhere In

Newer Version

Older Version

Alternate Version


For More Information

Visualization Credits

Tom Bridgman (Global Science and Technology, Inc.): Lead Visualizer
Laurence Schuler (ADNET Systems, Inc.): Technical Support
Ian Jones (ADNET Systems, Inc.): Technical Support
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

Short URL to share this page:

Hinode (Solar-b)
Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON)
IRIS: Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph
Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS)
Parker Solar Probe
Solar Orbiter Collaboration
Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD)
Space Environment Testbeds (SET)

Data Used:
SSCweb also referred to as: SSCweb ephemerides
Ephemeris - NASA/GSFC Space Physics Data Facility - 2020-01-01 to 2020-05-24
Satellite ephemerides
Space-Track Two-Line Elements also referred to as: Space-Track TLE
Ephemeris - NORAD - 2020-04-01 to 2020-06-01
Satellite ephemerides
DE 431
Ephemeris - JPL - 2020-01-01 to 2020-12-31
Planetary ephemerides SPICE kernel
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

This item is part of this series:
Heliophysics Fleet

SVS >> Hyperwall
SVS >> Solar Dynamics Observatory
SVS >> Hinode
SVS >> Spacecraft >> Voyager
SVS >> Satellite Orbit
NASA Science >> Sun
SVS >> Solar Orbiter
SVS >> IRIS Mission
SVS >> Parker Solar Probe