The four Cluster spacecraft
Science & Exploration

Science objectives

16/07/2010 769 views 2 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Space Science / Cluster

Cluster was designed to investigate the relationship between the Sun and Earth's magnetic environment. The Sun pours magnetic energy into space, carried in a hot thin gas called the solar wind. The gas is made of the various particles that go to make up atoms, but which can be separated at high temperatures. Such a gas is called plasma and can carry electrical and magnetic fields.

Together with the ESA-NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), Cluster is investigating the entire chain of events from the solar wind’s generation at the Sun to its collision with Earth's magnetosphere.

Cluster’s four identical spacecraft fly in formation. The separation between the spacecraft can be varied from just a few tens of kilometres to 10 000 km. Together, they are making the most detailed investigation ever of the interaction between the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field, and simultaneous measurements from all four make it possible to distinguish between the spatial and temporal variations of this interaction.

Cluster is determining which physical processes are involved in the interaction between the solar wind and the magnetosphere by repeatedly visiting key regions in near-Earth space. In combination, the four spacecraft are able to make three-dimensional maps of the plasma structures contained in these regions. This work is more than pure science, as many of the phenomena being studied can pose a danger to space-borne electronics, perturb GPS reception and damage electrical power systems on the ground.

Related Links

Science & Exploration

Cluster overview

01/01/1970 11055 views
Open item
Science & Exploration

Double Star overview

01/01/1970 3569 views
Open item
Science & Exploration

SOHO overview

01/01/1970 21876 views
Open item
Science & Exploration

Solar Orbiter overview

01/01/1970 40549 views
Open item
Cluster probes the mysteries of the black aurora
Science & Exploration

Space weather

2133 views 4 likes
Open item
Ceremony for the International Academy of Astronautics Laurels 2010
Science & Exploration

Laurels for Cluster-Double Star teams

28/09/2010 1240 views 2 likes
Open item
The Cluster quartet
Science & Exploration

Cluster turns the invisible into the visible

01/09/2010 1247 views 3 likes
Open item
The four Cluster spacecraft
Agency

Cluster's decade of discovery

16/07/2010 1571 views 2 likes
Open item
Science & Exploration

Shocking recipe for making killer electrons

11/03/2010 1340 views 1 likes
Open item
Effect of extreme solar activity on Earth's magnetosphere
Science & Exploration

Watching solar activity muddle Earth’s magnetic field

29/04/2009 3528 views 1 likes
Open item
Mars Express
Science & Exploration

ESA extends missions studying Mars, Venus and Earth’s magne…

10/02/2009 1630 views 0 likes
Open item
Earth's oxygen escaping from Earth's polar regions
Science & Exploration

Cluster watches Earth’s leaky atmosphere

28/08/2008 2719 views 3 likes
Open item
Cluster II
Science & Exploration

Cluster listens to the sounds of Earth

27/06/2008 1639 views 1 likes
Open item
The Cluster quartet
Science & Exploration

Solitary waves in translation

07/03/2008 691 views 0 likes
Open item
Cluster observing the electron diffusion region
Science & Exploration

New discovery on magnetic reconnection to impact future spa…

23/01/2008 1442 views 1 likes
Open item
Schematic of Earth’s night-side magnetosphere
Science & Exploration

High-speed beams of charged particles accelerate towards Ea…

06/12/2007 2668 views 5 likes
Open item
CME observed by SOHO
Science & Exploration

Solar outburst pulls a magnetic slingshot

21/11/2007 905 views 1 likes
Open item