Facing the Sun

An artist's impression of ESA's Solar Orbiter in front of a stormy Sun. Now being fitted with its state-of-the-art instruments, Solar Orbiter is set to provide new views of our star, in particular providing close-up observations of the Sun’s poles.

Following its launch in February 2019 and three-year journey using gravity swingbys at Earth and Venus, Solar Orbiter will operate from an elliptical orbit around the Sun approaching within 42 million kilometers, closer than the planet Mercury.

The spacecraft will combine in situ and remote sensing observations to gain new information about solar activity and how eruptions produce energetic particles, information about what drives the solar wind and the coronal magnetic field, and how the Sun’s internal dynamo works.

Its 10 scientific instruments (e.g. the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager - see the STCE news items here  and here) are in the final stages of being added to the spacecraft before extensive tests to prepare it for the 2019 launch from Cape Canaveral, USA.

Solar Orbiter is an ESA-led mission with NASA participation. Find out more at this ESA webpage.

(Source: ESA; Pic: ESA/ATG medialab; Sun: NASA/SDO/ P. Testa (CfA))

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