Planet Party (November 16, 2006)
Hi-res TIF image(5.2M)
For about 22 hours, SOHO was able to observe four planets as they criss-crossed in the field of view of its LASCO C3 coronagraph. The four planets (Jupiter, Venus, Mercury and Mars) were visible from November 11-12, 2006; then, the fleet-moving Mercury left the field of view. None of these were visible from Earth during this time due to their close proximity to the Sun.
The noteworthy exception was Mercury, which passed between the Sun and Earth and appeared as a small black circle against the Sun for 5 hours on Nov. 8th. Otherwise, with the Sun's direct light blocked out by SOHO's occulting disk (blue disk in the center), the planets stood out quite well. (The Sun is represented by the white circle drawn in the disk's center.) The light of bright objects like Venus and Jupiter spread out to the sides on the sensitive CCD - this is a common optical aberration. This is the first time that SOHO has seen four planets at the same time since 2000.
SOHO began its Weekly Pick some time after sending a weekly image or video clip to the American Museum of Natural History (Rose Center) in New York City. There, the SOHO Weekly Pick is displayed with some annotations on a large plasma display.
If your institution would also like to receive the same Weekly Pick from us for display (usually in Photoshop or QuickTime format), please send your inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.