The ultimate eclipse maker PROBA-3

A total solar eclipse like the one we had on August 21 offers a great opportunity to study solar corona, the part of the solar atmosphere just above the solar surface. This region is the source of the solar wind, an ever-lasting flow of particles blown by the Sun into space. It is also where magnetic plasma clouds that are ejected by the Sun are accelerated. These clouds are thrown into the solar wind and might come into our direction causing a magnetic storm in the Earth’s environment.


Credits: ESA

That’s why we are very eager to have a closer look into this particular region. Instead of waiting until the next total eclipse, we thought it would be more efficient to create our own eclipses. An idea was born and is by now almost completely materialised in the form of an extraordinary space mission called PROBA-3. PROBA-3 is a duo-satellite: one satellite will occult the solar disk such that the second satellite which is in the shadow of the occulting satellite at a distance of 150 m, has an amazing view on the solar corona during 6 hours every 20-hour satellites orbit. The occulter is just big enough to cover the solar disk. Yes, your thinking is correct: this requires an amazing very accurate positioning of both satellites during their flight.

PROBA-3 is the ultimate state-of-the-art eclipse-producing machine guaranteeing exciting research of the solar atmosphere. An eclipse-maker is called a coronagraph. This coronagraph listens to the name ASPIICS.

Andrei Zhukov, STCE researcher and Principal Investigator of ASPIICS: ‘Finally, we can look during long periods at the region where it all happens: where the ever-lasting solar wind is generated, which carries massive plasma clouds into space. I’m looking forward to 2020 when PROBA-3 will be launched!’

PROBA-3 will look where it is so difficult to look, during very long uninterrupted periods. 

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