The ESA Solar Orbiter mission will be launched in February 2020 by NASA to unveil the mysteries of the solar wind. It will placed on a near-sun orbit to study its atmosphere and observe our star with a resolution that has never been reached before.
Project goals and objectives
The Solar Orbiter satellite will leave the Earth aboard an Atlas V launcher. It will travel towards our star at a distance of about 62 solar radii, or approximately 42 million km. These ideal proximity conditions will allow the satellite to start its observations with an exceptional resolution of 1 to 10 arc seconds depending on the instruments. From these observations, a detailed analysis of the Sun's atmosphere will emerge.
In addition, images and data from the polar regions and from the star's non-visible face will be collected using the satellite. The main scientific objective of all these measurements will be to identify the mechanisms that cause the sun's magnetism, dynamo, eruptions and particle wind, i.e. the breath of particles emitted by the Sun.
Two types of measurements will be carried out by Solar Orbiter: on the one hand, in situ measurements conducted in the immediate environment of the satellite, and on the other hand, remote sensing observations. To do this, the satellite is equipped with ten instruments.
4 in situ observation instruments:
- SWA (Solar Wind Analyser): a solar wind analyzer consisting of a sensors suite devoted to the measurement of the density, speed and temperature of the solar wind
- EPD (Energetic Particle Detector): an Energetic Particle Detector will measure the properties of suprathermal and energetic particles
- MAG (Magnometer): an instrument for measuring the heliospheric magnetic field with high precision
- RPW (Radio and Plasma Wave analyser): a instrument to measure magnetic and electric field with a high timing resolution
6 remote observation instruments:
- SO/PHI (Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager): measurement of magnetic field vector and radial velocity
- EUI (EUV full-Sun and high-resolution Imager): images of solar atmospheric layers above the photosphere
- SPICE (EUV Spectral Imager): measurement of the wavelengths of light emitted by the Sun
- STIX (X-ray spectrometer/telescope): image spectroscopy of solar thermal and non-thermal X-ray emissions
-METIS/COR (Multi Element Telescope for Imaging and Spectroscopy / Coronagraph): image of visible and ultraviolet emissions from the solar corona and diagnosis of the structure and dynamics of the corona at a distance of 1.4 to 3.0 solar rays from the center of the star
- SoloHI (Heliospheric Imager): revolutionary measurements for the localization of coronal mass ejections
This mission is part of the ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 program. CNES is involved in the production of six out of the ten instruments aboard the scientific payload of the satellite. Among them, we emphasize the RPW instrument that CNES, in partnership with the Laboratoire de l'Observatoire de Paris (LESIA), and STIX, an imaging spectrometer with a focal plane produced by CEA/Irfu.
The planned duration of the Solar Orbiter mission is seven and a half years, which may be extended by two and a half years.
Follow the latest news of the mission on the ESA website: http://sci.esa.int/solar-orbiter/