Artist’s rendition of the Solar Orbiter facing the Sun. Copyright: Spacecraft: ESA/ATG medialab; Sun: NASA/SDO/ P. Testa (CfA)
On February 10, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Solar Orbiter blasted off atop an United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Cape Canaveral. Over the next 7 years, the Solar Orbiter will capture the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles and its far side, gathering data about solar activity. Specifically:
- How the Sun creates and controls the heliosphere – the layer surrounding our solar system
- How the Sun’s magnetic field and solar winds are generated
- How to better predict solar storms and eruptions that disrupt the Earth’s weather
- How these disturbances affect the solar system in general
Advances in heat shield technology will enable the 10 science instruments to collect more data in real time at 26 million miles away from the Sun; this proximity is necessary to gather data about how the heliosphere is generated and controlled.
These data will complement the Parker Solar Probe as well as ground telescopes to give us an unprecedented global view of the Sun.
The ESA is leading the mission, with considerable participation by NASA.
Read more about the ESA Solar Orbiter mission here