The European Space agency and NASA are ready to launch another mission to the Sun but this time to study its poles!

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ESA Solar Orbiter
ESA BR-345 Solar Orbiter: Facing the Sun – CopyrightESA – European Space Agency-

Recently, there has been a lot of news around the Sun. NASA’s Solar Parker Probe is getting closer to the sun and sending unexpected data about it. A large Solar telescope in Hawai took a first ever close-up of the surface of the Sun that has intrigued most space lovers.

Today another Solar Orbiter will launch from Florida and start its mission to the source of all light on Earth, the Sun. The mission is a collaboration between ESA (the European Space Agency) and NASA and is scheduled to begin Feb. 9, 2020.

What is this mission all about?

The Orbiter is seeking close-up views of the Sun’s north and south poles. It is equipped with 6 instruments that can directly image the sun.

It also has another 4 instruments that operate like a mobile laboratory. They will measure the magnetic fields and solar eruptions in the polar regions. They will also track the progression of eruptions on the sun from the surface out into space, and all the way down to Earth.

Animation of a portion of Solar Orbiter’s highly inclined orbit. (Credits: ESA/ATG medialab)

How long will it take to get to the Sun?

It will take a period of 3 years to get to the Sun. First, it will sling past Earth and then repeatedly around Venus before it draws near the Sun. It will use gravitational assist maneuvers to plunge closer and closer to the Sun.

What is interesting is that it will travel out of the ecliptic plane – a belt of space, roughly aligned with the Sun’s equator, containing the Earth’s orbit around the sun. It will climb higher above the ecliptic plane until it has a bird’s eye view of the star’s poles. It will be circling the sun at an angle 24 degrees above its equator.

Unlike the Solar Parker Probe, it will keep its distance from the Sun and hang around Mercury’s Orbit.

What does it hope to answer?

What drives the solar wind, the gust of charged particles constantly blowing from the Sun? Or, what churning deep inside the Sun generates its magnetic field?

The data from this mission will expand Parker’s data. We can’t wait to here learn more about our star. Stay tuned for updates.

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