LESIA Observatoire de Paris-PSL CNRS Sorbonne Université Université de Paris

The Solar Orbiter Mission

Tuesday 11 October 2022, by Milan Maksimovic

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 spacecraft was launched on February 10, 2020 from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

The Solar Orbiter mission aims to make significant breakthroughs in our understanding both of how the inner heliosphere works, and of the effects of solar activity on it. The spacecraft takes a unique combination of measurements: in situ measurements will be used alongside remote sensing close to the Sun to relate these measurements back to their source regions and structures on the Sun’s surface. It operates both in and out of the ecliptic plane. Solar Orbiter measures solar wind plasma, fields, waves and energetic particles close enough to the Sun to ensure that they are still relatively pristine.

The top level science questions of the mission are :

  • How and where do the solar wind plasma and magnetic field originate in the corona?
  • How do solar transients drive heliospheric variability?
  • How do solar eruptions produce energetic particle radiation that fills the heliosphere?
  • How does the solar dynamo work and drive connections between the Sun and the heliosphere?

More information can be found on the ESA Solar Orbiter website.