NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) will present Solar Orbiter, the ESA/NASA mission to the Sun, during a science press briefing on Friday, Feb. 7. 2020, at 2.30 p.m. EST.
Solar Orbiter will observe the Sun with high spatial resolution telescopes and capture observations in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft to create a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout our solar system. The spacecraft also will provide the first-ever images of the Sun’s poles and the never-before-observed magnetic environment there, which helps drive the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.
During its closest approaches of the Sun, Solar Orbiter will travel fast enough to study how magnetically active regions evolve for up to four weeks at a time. Solar Orbiter will return the first images and measurements of the Sun’s polar magnetic field, helping scientists relate the poles to the solar activity cycle.
This animation of Solar Orbiter and its instruments begins by showing small sliding doors in the heat shield open to allow the internally mounted, remote-sensing instruments to observe the Sun. Special windows block out heat to protect the instruments during operations. The doors are closed when the remote-sensing instruments are not observing. The in situ instruments are in science mode throughout the spacecraft’s orbit.
Animation of a spacecraft experience damage from space weather. Sometimes, solar eruptions can disrupt satellites and everyday technology such as GPS and radio. At worst, space weather can also impact astronauts.
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Conceptual Image Lab/Krystofer Kim
This visualization presents a model of the Sun’s magnetic field based on solar observations. Currently, scientists lack measurements of the magnetic field at the Sun’s north and south poles. Solar Orbiter will fly in an inclined orbit in order to study the poles.
Animation of a coronal mass ejection impacting Mars, Earth, and Jupiter. Solar Orbiter is equipped to image such eruptions as they burst from the Sun, and measure the eruption directly as it passes the spacecraft.
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Conceptual Image Lab/Bailee DesRocher