ESA’s Solar Orbiter mission lifted off on an Atlas V 411 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 05:03 CET on 10 February on its mission to study the Sun from new perspectives.
Solar Orbiter, an ESA-led mission with strong NASA participation, will provide the first views of the Sun’s uncharted polar regions, giving unprecedented insight into how our parent star works.
It will also investigate how intense radiation and energetic particles being blasted out from the Sun and carried by the solar wind through the Solar System impact our home planet, to better understand and predict periods of stormy ‘space weather’. Solar storms have the potential to knock out power grids, disrupt air traffic and telecommunications, and endanger space-walking astronauts, for example.
“As humans, we have always been familiar with the importance of the Sun to life on Earth, observing it and investigating how it works in detail, but we have also long known it has the potential to disrupt everyday life should we be in the firing line of a powerful solar storm,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA Director of Science.
“By the end of our Solar Orbiter mission, we will know more about the hidden force responsible for the Sun’s changing behaviour and its influence on our home planet than ever before.”
“Solar Orbiter is going to do amazing things. Combined with the other recently launched NASA missions to study the Sun, we are gaining unprecedented new knowledge about our star,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for Science at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.
“Together with our European partners, we’re entering a new era of heliophysics that will transform the study of the Sun and help make astronauts safer as they travel on Artemis program missions to the Moon.”
More on ESA website.