To monitor the sun for flare and sunspot activity that may affect Department of Defense systems. The Solar Observing Optical Network (SOON) provides the only dedicated, reliable, and operational source of solar optical imagery to the Air Force and other DoD agencies. SOON products are also used by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado, for public and private space weather notifications and alerts.
As part of the Solar Electro-Optical Network (SEON), the SOON system provides the capability to observe, analyze, and report visible solar phenomena such as solar flares, sunspots, magnetic fields, and disk and limb activity. Solar flares can trigger high velocity Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) that can interact with the Earth's magnetosphere to create geomagnetic storms. Major geomagnetic storms can result in the following impacts:
· Satellite charging and solar cell damage · Increased satellite drag
· Communications fadeouts and blackouts · Navigation system anomalies
· Targeting system errors · Damaging high altitude radiation
· Power grid failures · Pipeline current surges
SOON’s primary observed wavelength of light is Hydrogen-alpha (Hα, 6563 Å), which allows analysis of complex solar activity in the Sun’s lower atmosphere, or chromosphere. Images of the Sun in the continuum (pseudo-white-light) provide analysis of sunspots on the Sun's surface, or photosphere. SOON’s Magnesium (Mg-b2) subsystem, also known as the spectrograph, produces magnetograms. The magnetograms produce magnetic maps used in analyzing right-hand and left-hand circularly polarized light which correspond to positive and negative line-of-sight components (Doppler shifting) of the magnetic field in the photosphere.
The SOON telescopes are operated and maintained by 2d Weather Squadron personnel at three sites around the globe:
- · Detachment 1, Learmonth, Australia
· Detachment 4, Holloman AFB, New Mexico
· Contract Site, San Vito, Italy
(Current as of August 2022)