On March 26, 2022, the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft successfully completed its closest mission to the Sun’s corona, bringing a specially designed collection of objects. sound in the Sun than ever before.
Recently, called a perihelion, ten of the Solar Orbiter’s instruments worked together, working together to gather vital data, never seen before. The flight brought the Solar Orbiter less than one -third of the distance from the Sun to Earth.
The historical perihelion of Solar Orbiter
The Solar Orbiter was launched on February 9, 2020, aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V wheel. earth in a heliocentric orbit.
In order to lower its perihelion – the point in its orbit closest to the Sun – the Solar Orbiter must make some gravitational support with Earth and Venus to achieve an estimated perihelion of 0.28 AU. Taken together, these gravitational pulls help to elevate the Solar Orbiter’s orbital position, allowing the spacecraft to provide first -hand views of the Sun’s non -polar parts. During its first mission, the orbital angle of Solar Orbiter will be increased from 0 ° to 24 °.
On June 15, 2020, Solar Orbiter built its closest car to the Sun. At the time of this first near -path, the Solar Orbiter’s perihelion was only 77 million kilometers, about halfway between the Sun and Earth. During this first perihelion, the Solar Orbiter teams tested each of the spacecraft’s ten devices, capturing the Sun and collecting a plethora of data on the Sun’s independent processes. .
The ten devices on the Solar Orbiter are the Energetic Particle Detector (EPD), Magnetometer (MAG), Radio and Plasma Waves (RPW), Solar Wind Plasma Analyzer (SWA), Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI), Coronagraph (Metis), Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI), Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI), Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (SPICE), and X-ray Spectrometer / Telescope (STIX).
As the Solar Orbiter approaches the Sun, tens of its instruments are working and collecting critical data about the characteristics of the Sun. After the flight, Solar Orbiter scientists from ESA and NASA will spend weeks researching and analyzing this data and images.
During the course of March 26, the Solar Orbiter was very close to 48 million kilometers from the surface of the Sun – less than a third of the distance between the Sun and Earth. The Solar Orbiter entered the orbit of Mercury on March 14 and returned on April 6 as it moved again from the Sun. Images of the Sun taken by Solar Orbiter are the closest images of the sun’s surface taken, and are expected to be released in a few weeks.
Solar Orbiter takes images on the Earth-Sun line
As the Solar Orbiter traveled to the perihelion, it passed an important point in the sky: the Earth-Sun line. The Earth-Sun line is the point between the Earth that represents half of the point between the Sun and Earth. When Solar Orbiter went this line, its instruments were used to take high -definition images of the Sun’s surface.
Taking images along the Earth-Sun line will allow scientists to compare data and images from the Solar Orbiter with solar telescopes in space and on Earth. One of the mosaic images captured by Solar Orbiter is the high resolution image of the Sun’s corona and the full disk taken.
The image was taken in the highest ultraviolet by Solar Orbiter’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI). The EUI captures images in high ultraviolet at a wavelength of 17 nanometers. Capturing the Sun at this length of the wave reveals the corona, the sky above the Sun.
In the picture, two black “heads” are seen, which are large and shiny features emanating from the surface of the Sun, at the second and eighth degrees of the Sun (relative to the Sun). direction of the image). These particles are easy to eject, releasing large amounts of sunlight out of the solar system in events called coronal mass ejections (CME). These CMEs are the most common cause of “bad weather” on Earth.
Recently, some of these CMEs have triggered a geomagnetic disturbance in the Earth’s magnetosphere, which has led to the disappearance of 40 SpaceX Starlink satellites.
The EUI is not the only carrier of data and receives images of the Sun on the Earth-Sun line. Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (SPICE) took mosaic images at different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light, with an image of the Sun at the Lyman -beta wavelength of ultraviolet light – the first of its kind in nearly 50 years. . SPICE is designed to measure many parts of the Sun’s atmosphere, from the upper corona to the lower chromosphere.
SPICE captured the Sun at wave lengths of about four different temperatures, each corresponding to the emissions from an object into the Sun’s atmosphere: 10,000 ° C (hydrogen), 32,000 ° C (carbon), 320,000 ° C (oxygen), and 630,000 ° C (neon). For comparison, each object is represented in a different color: hydrogen in purple, carbon in blue, oxygen in green, and neon in yellow.
Using images from SPICE and other devices and systems on the Solar Orbiter, solar physicists can pinpoint the precise planes where the sun’s orbits explode and see their teacher. In addition, SPICE will allow solar physicists to gain a better understanding of the rise in temperature in the Sun’s atmosphere – one of the most complex mysteries in heliophysics.
Generally, as you move away from a heat source, the amount of heat that is dissipated will be reduced farther away from the source of heat. The Sun is the source of its heat, so it is easy to assume that the outer surface of the Sun, the corona, is much cooler than the skin.
However, this is not the case.
In fact, the corona is around one million degrees Celsius, while the Sun’s surface is only 5,000 ° C – a terrifying and mysterious phenomenon that solar physicists have tried to figure out over the years. Determining the true cause of this phenomenon is one of the main goals of Solar Orbiter’s first seven -year mission.
(Image guide: Artist’s translation for Solar Orbiter Near the Sun. Available: ESA / ATG medialab)