NOAA / Space Weather Prediction Center

SOONSPOT: Introduction, Status and Future Plans

Introduction and Current Status

Updated April 14, 1998

The name SOONSPOT stands for SOON Solar Patrol on Tape, where SOON refers to the Solar Observing Optical Network (SOON) of five solar observatories maintained and operated by the U.S. Air Force. Under previous grants from NASA and NSF, the Coordinator of the Max '91 program, Alan Kiplinger purchased and installed Exabyte tape recorders for all SOON observatories. After more than three years of effort on behalf of seven different agencies, SOONSPOT is collecting digital images of the sun on a regular basis.

The system incorporates two 8-mm Exabyte tape recorders at each of the sites. During each observing day, the analysts can assign up to six SOONSPOT "history" regions. Each history region targets an active region or other object of interest with large scale H-alpha images taken every five minutes. In addition, matching large-scale white light images (called B2 images) are obtained every 30 minutes. One of the history regions routinely obtained is a series of full disk H-alpha images taken every thirty minutes. Since the system was primarily developed to record solar flares, the system features the ability to record solar flares at a cadence of 30 seconds beginning five minutes before the triggering of the flare detection algorithm and continuing until flare maximum. During periods of high solar activity, up to 2,200 images per day may be collected at each site. The large scale field of view is 6.4 x 6.4 arc-min with 0.75 arc-sec pixels. Each image is written to tape in Extended FITS format with extensive header information including timing, sky transparency, pixel sizes and absolute pointing.

Archived history regions can be selected in various ways. Normally, NOAA/SEL forecasters select one or two regions for archival and they broadcast their choices via the Daily Acquisition Report that is sent to all sites at 21:30 UT daily. The observers at the sites also may select other regions of interest. Thus it is relatively straightforward to collect, archive and distribute 24 hour/day data on selected solar features in support of special scientific observing efforts. It It is important to have a smoothly operating interface between members of the scientific community and NOAA/SWPCs Space Forecast Center. The current plan is for members of the scientific community to work with Alan Kiplinger in setting up special SOONSPOT targeting efforts.

Here is information on how to access SOONSPOT data.