QR.bizNewsSolar Orbiter heads for the sun to discover its secrets

Solar Orbiter heads for the sun to discover its secrets

Solar Orbiter, a new collaborative mission between ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA to study the Sun, launched at 11:03 p.m. EST Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

In connection #SolarOrbiter11:03 pm ET launch, mission controllers received a signal from the spaceship indicating that the solar panels have been successfully deployed!

Carrying four in situ instruments (which measure the space environment immediately around the spacecraft like the sense of touch) and six remote-sensing imagers (which see the sun from afar), the Solar Orbiter (called SolO) will face the sun at approximately 42 million kilometres from its surface.

The spacecraft will orbit the Sun from a distance similar to Mercury but will incline its orbit to get a good look at the Sun's poles. "By the end of our Solar Orbiter mission, we will know more... than ever before".

Following years of evolution, an exciting new scientific study spacecraft has started on its journey to examine our solar system's central participant: the Sun. "It will also investigate how intense radiation and energetic particles being blasted out from the Sun and carried by the solar wind through the Solar System impact our home planet, to better understand and predict periods of stormy "space weather". In the meantime, it'll still be collecting data before it begins its main objective. In addition, the instruments on Ulysses, which was launched in 1990, were not as sensitive as those on the current mission. After it sways through those two bodies to gain momentum, it will end up in an orbit around the Sun with a close distance of only 26 million miles, still about 100 times farther than Earth's Moon, but so close that temperatures at its peak in the spacecraft they will reach nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. But while Parker samples particles from up close, Solar Orbiter will snap photos from far away to heighten observations. By 2025, the orbit will be inclined such that the spacecraft is at a solar latitude of 17 degrees when it makes its closest approach to the sun, rising to 33 degrees by 2029.

What sets Solar Orbiter apart will be its ability to observe the poles of the sun.

Solar Orbiter was made in Europe, along with nine scientific instruments. "Combined with the other recently launched NASA missions to study the Sun, we are gaining unprecedented new knowledge about our star", said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for Science at the agency's headquarters in Washington. After all, while we humans have a soft spot for the sun, it's just a star like any other - which means that scientists can apply what these three missions discover to all the stars we'll never be able to see as clearly.

ESA's European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands manages the development effort. Then, the Solar Orbiter will spend two years (dubbed the "cruise phase") reaching its desired orbit.

Solar Orbiter won't be able to unlock those mysteries immediately.

NASA and ESA's Solar Orbiter mission will face the Sun from within the orbit of Mercury at its closest approach

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