Solar Orbiter observed the sun like no one had seen it before!

The photos are truly breathtaking says David Berghmans, of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, and principal investigator of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, which resolution of the solar corona† It is in these terms that the press release of the European Space Agency (ESA) which presents the first results and data from the passage of the Solar Orbiter probe as close as possible to the SunLaunched in February 2020the probe made its first close perihelion on March 26 at just 0.32 ouchor about 30 million miles.

The photos are truly breathtaking

David Berghmans’ enthusiasm is understandable. During this passage, the 10 instruments on board recorded unprecedented data and the probe acquired breathtaking views of the solar poles and a curious “hedgehog” that stretches for 15,000 miles and presents a multitude of peaks of hot gases and cold in all directions. After the solar campfiresthe Extreme Ultraviolet Imager team came up with a rather surprising word for a solar phenomenon.

The whole challenge for the scientists on the mission will be to compare the data from the remote sensing instruments (distance observation of the sun’s activity) and the data from the instruments. on the spot that analyze the environment of the probe where the fluxes of solar particles arrive. In other words, make the connection between what the probe sees and what the probe “feels”.

The Solar Orbiter’s mission is not over and we can already say that its scientific objectives will be achieved. When the probe is launched in 2020, the aim is to better understand thestar with which we live, providing unprecedented insight into how it works and how it affects the space environment around Earth and beyond. The main goal is to better understand the connection between the sun and the sunheliospherethis zone in the form of an elongated bell formed by the solar winds, plasma of charged particles continuously emitted by the sun. These scientific successes are also technological successes. Getting so close to the sun and looking directly at it was akin to an unprecedented technological gamble in designing the probe.

And there, too, the bet is won. Venturing just about 30 million miles from the sun, Solar Orbiter was exposed to temperatures ranging from about 500 to 600°C! Well protected by the probe’s heat shield, all the instruments could work normally. This close March 26 perihelion is a real success for the Solar Orbiter mission, confirms Desi Raulin, Solar Orbiter Project Manager at Cnes: “ the French scientists are very happy with the result because they were able to collect a lot of data. All instruments work perfectly. It’s a breath of fresh air that the spacecraft has collected so much data through its instruments and at such a high resolution.

Lay the foundation for a reliable and accurate system that can predict solar phenomena

Solar Orbiter also wants to contribute to the creation of a real meteorology spatial. And here too the bet is won. Combining data from all of the probe’s instruments will help scientists understand how solar activity works from the sun’s surface to the Solar Orbiter and beyond. This knowledge is precisely what paves the way for a future system to predict space weather conditions on Earth in real time. As it approached perihelion, Solar Orbiter even got a glimpse of how such a system works!

On March 10, an ejection of mass passed through the probe coronally. To be magnetometer on board predicted it would hit Earth several hours later. By spreading the news on social media, the sky watchers were ready for the aurora sightings, which happened about 18 hours later than expected.

This experiment gave Solar Orbiter insight into real-time forecasting of space weather on Earth. Such an endeavor is becoming increasingly important because of the threat space weather poses to technology, to human activity in low Earth orbit, and to future exploration missions on the Moon and Mars.

Solar Orbiter confirms Vigil’s interest. This European Space Agency mission will be launched on the horizon of 2025 to Lagrange point number 5. From this location, Vigil will be able to study all extreme and unpredictable solar events even before they happen. solar flares and “coronal mass ejections,” and before they hit it.

This perihelion was therefore a huge success and generated a large amount of data. And as the ESA points out, this is just a taste of things to come! In October, the probe will get even closer to the Sun, only 0.29 times the Earth-Sun distance.

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