The NASA Solar Orbiter flies towards the Sun and History

The NASA Solar Orbiter flies towards the Sun and History

ESA / NASA's Solar Orbiter probe is currently located between Earth and the Sun, about halfway between our planet and its parent star, and this allows for a unique study of space weather and the sun-Earth connection. br>
The sun releases a steady stream of particles into space. This is known as the solar wind. It transports the sun's magnetic field into space, where it can interact with planets to create auroras and disrupt electrical technology. Magnetic activity on the sun, which often takes place above sunspots, can create gusts of wind that enhance these effects.

This behavior is known as space weather, and scientists can use the crossing of the Earth line -Only to study it in a unique way. They will combine the observations of Solar Orbiter with those of other spacecraft operating closer to Earth, such as the Hinode and IRIS spacecraft in Earth orbit, and SOHO, stationed 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth. This will allow them to join the points of any space weather event as it traverses the 150 million kilometers between the sun and Earth.

Solar Orbiter's remote sensing tools may also be able to pinpoint the origin of any event on the solar surface. Due to its location and relative proximity to Earth, Solar Orbiter has so far been able to stay in near-continuous contact, transmitting large amounts of data. Processing is also happening rapidly. For example, the magnetometer data is processed and cleaned within approximately 15 minutes of recording. The 15 minutes also includes the three and a half minutes it takes for the signals to cross the gap between the spacecraft and the ground station.

Parker Solar Probe, graphic illustration. Credits: NASA / Johns Hopkins APL / Steve Gribben

Solar Orbiter is currently approximately 75 million kilometers away from the sun. This is the same distance the spacecraft reached during its close pass to the sun on June 15, 2020, but nothing compared to how close it will now. "From this point on, we are 'stepping into the unknown' regarding Solar Orbiter's observations of the sun," said Daniel Müller, Solar Orbiter project scientist.

Together with data and images from Solar Orbiter's other instruments, these could reveal more information about the miniature flares nicknamed bonfires that the mission revealed in its first images.

“What I can't wait to find out is whether all of these dynamic features we see in the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager can make their way into the solar wind. There are so many! " said Louise Harra, co-Principal Investigator for the EUI based at the Physikalisch-Meteorologisches Observatorium Davos / World Radiation Center (PMOD / WRC), Switzerland.

To do this, Solar Orbiter will use its instruments of remote sensing, such as EUI, to photograph the sun, and its in situ instruments to measure the solar wind as it flows past the spacecraft. The passage of the perihelion of March 26 is one of the main events of the mission. All ten instruments will be operational at the same time to collect as much data as possible.

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