The spacecraft to explore the sun sent by the European Space Agency today achieved this goal for the first time, only 77 million kilometers from the sun’s surface. In July, we will see the photo he is taking, which is the closest photo of the star ever to us.
After launching on February 10 and after several months of travel, the mission Solar orbiter From European Space Agency (ESA) He has set June 15th this year as his first contact with our star, 77 million kilometers The distance from its surface is equal to half the distance separating it from the earth.
Within a week after the first perihelion, the mission scientist along its orbit is the point closest to the sun They will test ten instruments on boardIncluding six telescopes, for the first time, they will capture close-up images of the sun at the same time.
in accordance with Daniel MüllerThese pictures will be released in mid-July. They are photos of ESA’s Solar Orbiter project scientists. They are the closest photos ever to the sun: “There are higher-resolution close-ups, such as photos taken by NASA this year. The four-meter-tall Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope from Hawaii. But because of the atmosphere between ground-based telescopes and the sun, they can only see a small part of the solar spectrum compared to the spectrum observed from space. “
For its part, Detect Solar Parker NASA launched in 2018 and is getting closer and closer to our star. However, it does not have a telescope that can observe it directly.
“The spatial resolution of our ultraviolet imaging telescope is comparable to Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) NASA, which takes high-resolution images of the sun from low-Earth orbit. Since we are currently only half the distance away from the sun, during this perihelion, our image resolution is twice that of SDO,” Mueller said.
The main purpose of these initial observations is to check whether the solar orbiter telescope is ready for future scientific observations.
“For the first time, we will be able to combine images from four telescopes and observe how they collect complementary data from different parts of the sun, including the surface, outer atmosphere or corona and the broader heliosphere surrounding it,” the researchers said .
The task team will also analyze data from four instruments. In situ They measure the characteristics of the environment around the spacecraft, such as the magnetic field and the particles that make up the solar wind.
“This is the first time our four instruments In situ They work at such a short distance from the sun, so they will provide us with an unprecedented perspective on the structure and composition of the solar wind. ” Giannis Zuganellis, Is an associate scientist of the ESA solar orbiter project. Regarding these tools, this is not only a test, but we look forward to new results that arouse great interest.”
The cruise phase begins
The solar orbiter ended its commissioning phase on June 15, and the cruise phase began and lasted until November 2021.During the main scientific phase (which begins immediately afterwards), the spacecraft will only arrive 42 million kilometers It is closer to the surface of the sun than Mercury.
The next perihelion attack will take place in early 2021. It will be 48 million kilometers away from the sun during the first major zoom in the major scientific phase that will take place in early 2022.
At that time, the operator of the solar orbiter will use the gravity of Venus to deviate the orbit of the spacecraft from the ecliptic plane where the planets of the solar system are located.These gravity-assisted maneuvers will allow the solar orbiter to look towards the sun from a higher latitude and gain The first picture of the poles appropriate.
Studying activities in the polar regions will help scientists better understand the behavior of the solar magnetic field, which causes the solar magnetic field to be generated. Solar wind In turn, this will affect the entire solar system and lead to space weather phenomena around our planet.
Since the spacecraft is currently 134 million kilometers away from the earth, it will take nearly a week to download images of the perihelion through the 35 m deep space antenna located in Malargüe, Argentina. These images will be processed before release in mid-July.Instrument data In situ After careful calibration of the various sensors, they will be launched later this year.
“We have a nine-hour download window every day, but we are far from the earth, so the data transfer rate is much lower than the first few weeks of the mission (we were still very close at the time)-Müller stated. In the next phase, Sometimes it takes months to download the data completely, because the real mission of Solar Orbiter is Deep space. Unlike missions near Earth, in this case, we can store large amounts of data on board and download it when the spacecraft approaches us again and the data connection is better.