NASA and ESA are on the way to a new mission: exploring the Sun’s poles, winds, and corona temperatures. Solar Orbiter Probe is the name of the spacecraft, and it will be launched on February 5.
Before understanding the necessity of the mission, we might need to get our minds wrapped around the idea of Sun having poles and winds. With the poles, it might be easier. Clearly, they aren’t icy. The astronomers never saw pictures of the Sun poles before. They need to have a global picture of the Sun’s magnetic field to understand space weather activity and activity in general on the Sun.
But what’s with the winds? The Sun has this aura of plasma called the corona. It is the upper atmosphere of the Sun that releases a charged particles stream. This is what they call the wind. And the Sun’s wind also changes the space temperatures. The mission will help determine where on the Sun the wind is created.
More about NASA and ESA’s Solar Orbiter Probe
The new Solar Orbiter Probe’s mission is to take a 26 million miles look (at its closest approach) to observe these solar events. The observations will reveal the way the Sun creates and controls its heliosphere, and how does the solar wind’s harshness makes the charged particles travel into vast space.
Launched in 2018, NASA’s currently Parker Solar Probe is the fastest artificial object to encounter the Sun so far. It was sent to assess the structure and dynamics of the Sun’s coronal plasma and magnetic field, the energy flow that heats the solar corona and impels the solar wind, and the mechanisms that accelerate energetic particles.
The two missions are designed to last for seven years, and also to complement each other. Parker Solar Probe’s first two perihelion passes occurred in November 2018, and April 2019. The Solar Orbiter will make its first close perihelion pass in 2022.