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(Credit: NASA)

The Solar-B mission, now known as Hinode, was launched in September 2006, carrying instruments developed by Japan, the USA and the UK. Building on the highly successful SOHO and YohKoh solar missions, Hinode is studying the fundamental question of how magnetic fields interact with plasma to produce solar variability. Its broad objective is to enable the solar photosphere and corona to be understood as a system. Hinode aims to solve how the generation of solar-magnetic field and its emergence through the photosphere governs the structure of the entire solar atmosphere.

The Hinode payload consists of three instruments that will make co-ordinated observations of the solar magnetic fields at the photosphere, and the structure and dynamics of the rest of the Sun's atmosphere. The Extreme-ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) was built by an international consortium led by the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (UK).

EIS measures spectral emissions lines in order to accurately diagnose the conditions in the solar plasma at a pixel size of 750 km on the solar surface. RAL scientists are using the data to better understand the Sun's atmosphere and its effect on Earth. RAL Space was a key player in the development of EIS, providing assembly, integration and test facilities, with particular responsibility for cleanliness and contamination control. RAL Space is also responsible for the vital radiometric calibration of EIS and for software for operations planning and support.

Support for the operation of Hinode is funded by the UK Space Agency (UKSA), which is an executive agency of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS). UKSA works with STFC which funds researchers to exploit the scientific data yielded by the mission.

The JAXA/NASA Hinode mission witnessed two solar eclipses on Nov. 13, 2012, near in time to when a solar eclipse was visible in the southern hemisphere. This movie shows the first, a total eclipse.

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