European SolO probe ready to take on audacious mission
Published: 19:29 19 October 2019
The European spacecraft that aims to take the closest-ever pictures of the Sun is built and ready for launch - reports BBC.
The Solar Orbiter, or SolO, the probe will put itself inside the orbit of Planet Mercury to train its telescopes on the surface of our star.
Other instruments will sense the constant outflow of particles and their embedded magnetic fields.
Scientists hope the detailed observations can help them understand better what drives the Sun's activity.
This goes up and down on an 11-year cycle. It's sure to be a fascinating endeavor but it's one that has direct relevance to everyone on Earth.
The energetic outbursts from our star have the ability to damage satellites, harm astronauts, degrade radio communications, and even knock power grids offline.
“We’re doing this not just for the sake of increasing our knowledge but also for being able to take precautions, for example by putting satellites in safe mode when we know big solar storms are coming or letting astronauts not leave the space station on these days,” said Daniel Müller, the European Space Agency (ESA) project scientist on SolO.
The probe was assembled in Stevenage, UK, by Airbus (Britain has invested €220m in the €1.5bn project), with the past year spent here at the IABG facility in Ottobrunn, Germany, for testing.
The spacecraft has cleared its checks and will now ship out to Florida to be mated with the Atlas rocket that will hurl it towards the Sun in early February.
SolO was first conceived in the late 1990s with the industrial contract to produce it awarded in 2012.
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