The SIDC is involved in space Instruments because some solar radiation, such as the extreme ultraviolet and X-rays, can only be observed from space, as they do not penetrate the Earth's atmosphere. Also, some techniques such as coronagraphy have a significantly better performance when not hampered by the Earth's atmosphere.
Through a deep involvement in the development and exploitation of space instruments we aim to have a full understanding of the complete data acquisition and calibration process. Our observational activities span the full range from instrumentation technology to data collection and analysis. A close internal collaboration ensures that our research and/or operations benefit directly and intensely from these observational activities. Our ambitions include developing advanced technologies, operating our own facilities and establishing stable infrastructures supporting long-term solar monitoring and standards.
Observations by space telescopes started at ROB/SIDC in 1995 with the launch of the EIT telescope onboard SOHO. As co-investigators in the EIT consortium, the SIDC contribution focussed on calibration aspects, operational duty cycles and (shutterless) high cadence imaging. Scientifically, we focussed on automated detection of events, coronal heating by nanoflares and space weather relevant phenomena. All these topics that originated in the early EIT times, later became major themes of research at SIDC.
It was soon noted that the baseline EIT cadence of 1 image per 12 min was not enough to track major dynamical events such as EIT waves, filament eruptions or the evolution of flares. The EUV imager SWAP and the radiometer LYRA were therefore proposed for the ESA satellite PROBA2, which was launched in 2009. As PROBA2 was in first place a technology demonstration platform, SWAP and LYRA were packed with novel technology for instrument miniaturisation, novel CMOS and wide band gap sensors, as well as onboard processing.
While EIT, SWAP and LYRA were each built for 2 years of operations, they are -decades later- all 3 still operating.
Based on the SWAP experience, the SIDC proposed, together with CSL and international partners, the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) onboard Solar Orbiter. Solar Orbiter was launched in February 2020 and the science phase of EUI started in December 2021. EUI consists of 2 high resolution telescopes in the EUV and Lyman alpha, as well as a full sun imager. Solar Orbiter will bring EUI closer to the Sun than any coronal imager before and up to 32 degrees out of the ecliptic. Early science highlights were the observations of small scale brightenings ('campfires') and the observation of the EUV corona higher up from the Sun than ever before.
Perspectives for the future
While the 10-year science lifetime of EUI is just beginning, the next instruments are already in preparation. The ASPIICS coronagraph on PROBA3 will be a giant two-satellite coronagraph being prepared for launch in 2023. ASPIICS will take coronagraph images closer to the solar limb than ever before.
SoSPIM is a direct descendant from LYRA and is being designed for a launch onboard the Japanese Solar-C mission.
The S-EUVI imager is a direct descendant from SWAP and EUI and is proposed to fly over the solar poles onboard the NASA mission SOLARIS.
Next generation technologies will be experimented with onboard ESIO+, a miniature SWAP+LYRA proposed to ESA.