Hinode, Japanese mission.

Japanese mission to investigate the Sun
  • Launched on 22 September 2006
  • Mission due to end in 2009
  • UK and international involvement
The Japanese Hinode mission is studying the processes involved in solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections. These events send billions of tonnes of particles spewing out into space and can have a major effect on the Earth.

Solar flares are tremendous explosions in the atmosphere of the star. They can directly affect the Earth’s upper atmosphere disrupting radio communications.

Coronal Mass Ejections can trigger a disturbance of the Earth's magnetic field called a geomagnetic storm. Large geomagnetic storms can knock-out orbiting satellites. Coronal Mass Ejections drive shock waves of energetic particles outwards from the Sun that could injure astronauts working in orbit.

Designed and built by teams in the US, Japan and the UK, Hinode has key involvement from University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) and the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL).

For more information, visit the ESA Hinode pages.

Mission facts

  • Hinode was originally known as Solar-B but was renamed Hinode, meaning sunrise in Japanese, after its launch.

  • The spacecraft can distinguish between steady movements on the Sun's surface and the changes that take place in the build-up to a solar flare.

  • The mission is operating in conjunction with SOHO and STEREO. Together with Ulysses these three missions are providing an unprecedented examination of our nearest star.


There are three instruments on board Hinode, designed to explore the trigger for solar flares.

The Solar Optical Telescope is the first large optical telescope flown in space dedicated to observing the Sun.

The UK is leading the EUV Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) science team. EUV stands for Extreme Ultraviolet. This instrument was designed and developed by an international team led by MSSL.

The primary function of the EIS is to measure the speed, density and temperature of particles coming from the Sun.

The third instrument, an X-ray telescope, is providing images of the Sun’s outer layer, the corona, at different temperatures.

Through the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the UK has invested almost £5 million in developing and building the EIS. Led by a team from MSSL, RAL provided the calibration and observing software. The University of Birmingham was also involved in the build.

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