The Parker Solar Probe and the Solar Orbiter are working hand-in-hand to paint a bigger picture of what’s happening on the Sun.
For the last year, Parker Solar Probe has broken records in speed, collected unprecedented data, and achieved the closest approaches to the Sun ever. None of the insights though, were detailed images of the Sun directly, and if we’re heading to the only star in our planetary system, we want to see it up close and personal.
So, NASA and ESA have another mission: Solar Orbiter.
The Solar Orbiter is an international collaboration to support our growing knowledge about the Sun. Solar Orbiter will have the first-ever images from the Sun’s poles.
It will also be imaging and gathering data about the Sun’s surface, its heliosphere, and its polar regions. The Sun is the most powerful particle accelerator in our solar system, generating a strong magnetic field and source of electric energy.
And while scientists have flown a number of solar and heliospheric missions in the past, nothing is quite like the Parker Solar Probe and the Solar Orbiter.
The Parker Solar Probe and the Solar Orbiter will work together in tandem to collect data to help us gain a better, very crucial understanding of solar wind.
So what exactly is on board the Solar Orbiter that will help the team see these coronal events in greater detail?
ESA Solar Orbiter: Summary
“Solar Orbiter is a mission dedicated to solar and heliospheric physics. It was selected as the first medium-class mission of ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 Programme. The programme outlines key scientific questions which need to be answered about the development of planets and the emergence of life, how the Solar System works, the origins of the Universe, and the fundamental physics at work in the Universe.”
Solar Orbiter Journey
“The following launch, foreseen for February 2020, Solar Orbiter will begin its journey to the Sun. This will require a cruise phase lasting less than two years. During this time, the instruments will be commissioned, and some in-situ data will be acquired. During the cruise, Solar Orbiter will use gravity assists from Venus and the Earth. These swing-bys will put Solar Orbiter into an initial 180 day-long orbit around the Sun from which the spacecraft will begin its scientific mission.”
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Sheds New Light on the Sun
“In the quest to protect astronauts and technology in space, the information Parker has uncovered about how the Sun constantly ejects material and energy will help scientists re-write the models we use to understand and predict the space weather around our planet and understand the process by which stars are created and evolve.”