The Mission to get a Close, Unprecedented Picture of Our Sun


courtesy of NASA

NASAʻs depiction of the Solar Orbiter in front of the sun

Holly Ikeda, Staff Reporter

A mission to get pictures of the north and south poles of the sun launched on Sunday, Feb. 9th at 11:03 PM Eastern Time. The mission is a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency.

It will take two years to reach its elliptical orbit around the sun but it will provide information about the sun and its magnetic field. The spacecraft called The Solar Orbiter launched from Cape Canaveral in Brevard County, Florida. The Solar Orbiter has ten instruments to capture pictures of the sun’s atmosphere, the solar disk, and the poles. How the intense radiation and energetic particles affect our planet and solar system.

The Solar Orbiter will aid in predicting solar winds and stormy space “weather”. These storms have big effects on the earth. Solar storms can knock out power grids, disrupt telecommunications, disrupt air traffic, and endanger astronauts.

Tim Horbury of Imperial College London, Principal Investigator for the Magnetometer instrument (MAG) says “The data we received shows how the magnetic field decreases from the vicinity of the spacecraft to where the instruments are actually deployed,” but what does that mean? Horbury goes onto explain that this information confirms that the boom deployed, but it also confirms that the instruments will provide accurate measurements in the future.
Yannis Zouganelis, an ESA’s deputy project scientist for the Solar Orbiter mission, said, “by the end of April, we will have a better idea of the performance of the instruments and hopefully start collecting the first scientific data in mid-May.”

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