Solar Orbiter blasts off to capture first look at Sun’s poles

Image courtesy of NASA

Image courtesy of NASA

It'll get as close to the sun as 25 million miles (42 million km); that's about a quarter of the distance between the sun and Earth.

Solar Orbiter, a collaboration between European Space Agency and NASA, is launching Sunday, Feb. 9, to study the inner workings of our nearest star. The aerospace company and NASA have set the next launch attempt to no earlier than February 13 at 4:06 p.m. EST. He added that the mission data will also help make astronauts safer when they travel to the moon and beyond on upcoming Artemis missions. 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. Equipped with high-resolution imagers and in situ instruments, it IS going to offer brand new perspectives of the Sun that we have never seen before.

Like NASA's Parker Solar Probe, launched in August 2018, Solar Orbiter sports a sun shield to protect the shuttle and instruments from the sun's heat. NASA supplied the 10th instrument and arranged the late-night launch from Cape Canaveral.

"As humans, we have always been familiar with the importance of the Sun to life on Earth, observing it and investigating how it works in detail", Günther Hasinger, ESA director of science, said in a statement.

One exciting part of the Solar Orbiter's mission is that it'll be moving outside of the relatively flat plane of the Solar System's planets, and will move into an orbit that gives us our first view of the Sun's poles.

The Solar Orbiter's instruments will examine the sun through small windows on a 38-centimeter thick titanium metal shield.

Scientists plan to use Solar Orbiter to answer key questions about the sun, such as the its magnetic field, the formation of the solar wind, and how solar activity like flares and coronal mass ejections affect solar weather at the Earth.

The Solar Orbiter will have to cross paths with Venus after Christmas day, and this will result in Venus sucking the Solar Orbiter out of its natural rotation. Such phenomenons can disrupt satellites and infrastructure on Earth, so it would be great to have a little more extra time in order to get prepared.

Parker Solar Probe, by contrast, has already passed within 18.6 million kilometres of the sun, an all-time record, and is shooting for a slim gap of six million kilometres by 2025.

Europe and NASA's Soho spacecraft, launched in 1995, is still sending back valuable solar data. ULA has successfully launched more than 135 missions to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.

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