Determining trajectories of solar transients such as coronal mass ejections is not always easy. White light images from SECCHI’s (Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation) heliospheric imagers are difficult to interpret because they represent a lineof- sight projection of optically thin solar wind structures. A structure’s image by itself gives no information about its angle of propagation relative to the Sunspacecraft line, and an image may show a superposition of several structures, all propagating at different angles. Analyzing SECCHI heliospheric imager data using plots of elongation (angle from the Sun) versus time at fixed position angle (aka “Jplots”) has proved extremely useful in understanding the observed solar wind structures. This technique has been used to study CME (coronal mass ejection) propagation, CIRs (corotating interaction regions), and blobs.

SATPLOT software was developed to create and analyze such elongation versus time plots. The tool uses a library of cylindrical maps of the data for each spacecraft’s panoramic field-of-view. Each map includes data from three SECCHI white-light telescopes (the COR2 coronagraph and both heliospheric imagers) at one time for one spacecraft. The maps are created using a Plate Carree projection, optimized for creating the elongation versus time plots. The tool can be used to analyze the observed tracks of features seen in the maps, and the tracks are then used to extract information, for example, on the angle of propagation of the feature.

This work was done by Jeffrey R. Hall and Paulett C. Liewer of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Daniel Broderick of the California Institute of Technology at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47826

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
SATPLOT for Analysis of SECCHI Heliospheric Imager Data

(reference NPO-47826) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the September, 2012 issue of Software Tech Briefs Magazine.

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