NASA and ESA have announced they will work together to launch a new spacecraft called solar orbiter to study the sun’s poles,media reported. The two space agencies announced the mission on Monday, explaining that the project will include the first images of the sun’s north and south poles. Assuming everything goes according to plan, the Solar Orbiter will launch from Florida early next month.
According to NASA, the Solar Orbiter will be the first spacecraft to be used to observe the solar poles, which will launch from Cape Canaveral on February 7 with an Atlas V rocket. What makes the launch unique is that it will strategically use the gravity of Earth and Venus to eject the spacecraft from the eclipical surface.
According to Russell Howard of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, all solar detectors sent into space have so far been operating on or “very close” to the ecliptosy. By leaving the eclipte, NASA and ESA researchers will have the opportunity to “look down at the sun from above.”
Solar probes play an important role in predicting space weather storms that could affect astronauts and interfere with GPS systems. According to NASA, the techniques used to prepare for these storms produce “more complex” data because the poles are observed from the eclipt. THIS, NASA EXPLAINS, LEADS TO “SIGNIFICANT GAPS IN DATA” THAT REDUCE THE ACCURACY OF MODELS USED TO PREDICT SPACE WEATHER.
This isn’t the first time NASA and ESA have worked together to study the sun’s poles. As early as 1990, two space agencies launched a spacecraft called Ulysses, which successfully orbited the sun three times. And this is still the only spacecraft passing through the solar poles. However, Ulysses does not approach the sun close lying close, and it carries few instruments.