On May 20-21, 2012 an annular eclipse of the Sun will be visible from within a narrow corridor along Earth’s northern Hemisphere — beginning in eastern Asia, crossing the North Pacific Ocean, and ending in the western United States. A partial eclipse will be visible from a much larger region covering East Asia, North Pacific, North America and Greenland.
The joint JAXA/NASA Hinode mission will observe the eclipse and provide images and movies that will be available on the NASA website at http://www.nasa.gov/sunearth. Due to Hinode’s orbit around the Earth, Hinode will actually observe 4 separate partial eclipses.” Scientists often use an eclipse to help calibrate the instruments on the telescope by focusing in on the edge of the moon as it crosses the sun and measuring how sharp it appears in the images. An added bonus: Hinode’s X-ray Telescope will be able to provide images of the peaks and valleys of the lunar surface.
On October 28, 2006, the Hinode solar mission was at last ready. The spacecraft launched on September 22, but such missions require a handful of diagnostics before the instruments can be turned on and collect what is called “first light.”
Hopes were high. Hinode had the potential to provide some of the highest resolution images of the sun the world had ever seen — as well as help solve such mysteries as why the sun’s atmosphere is a thousand times hotter than its surface and how the magnetic fields roiling through the sun create dramatic explosions able to send energy to the farthest reaches of the solar system.
The X-ray telescope (XRT) began taking images on October 23, the Solar Optical Telescope (SOT) opened its front door on October 25, and the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) started collecting spectroscopic images on October 28.
The images were beautiful, the data good; first light science had been achieved.