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Solar Orbiter reaches first perihelion
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ESA to reveal first images from Solar Orbiter

10/07/2020 237 views 6 likes
ESA / Space in Member States / United Kingdom

The first images from ESA’s new Sun-observing spacecraft Solar Orbiter will be released to the public on 16 July 2020. Media representatives are invited to watch an online press briefing, which will take place at 14:00 CEST (13:00 BST), and talk to the scientists behind the mission.

Solar Orbiter, launched on 10 February, completed its commissioning phase in mid-June and performed its first close approach to the Sun. Shortly thereafter, the European and US science teams behind the mission’s 10 instruments were able to test the entire instrument suite in concert for the first time.

- Better than expected

Despite the setbacks the teams faced while commissioning the spacecraft and its instruments amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the first imaging campaign has been a great success.

“The first images are exceeding our expectations,” says Daniel Müller, Solar Orbiter Project Scientist at ESA. “We can already see hints of very interesting phenomena that we have not been able to observe in detail before. The 10 instruments on board Solar Orbiter work beautifully, and together provide a holistic view of the Sun and the solar wind. This makes us confident that Solar Orbiter will help us answer profound open questions about the Sun.”

- We have never been closer with a camera

No other images of the Sun have been taken from such a close distance. During its first perihelion, the point in the spacecraft’s elliptical orbit closest to the Sun, Solar Orbiter got as close as 77 million kilometres from the star’s surface, about half the distance between the Sun and Earth. The spacecraft will eventually make much closer approaches to the Sun. The spacecraft is now in its cruise phase, gradually adjusting its orbit around the Sun. Once in its science phase, which will commence in late 2021, the spacecraft will get as close as 42 million kilometres from the Sun’s surface, closer than the planet Mercury. The spacecraft’s operators will gradually tilt Solar Orbiter’s orbit to enable the probe to get the first proper view of the Sun’s poles.

No other images of the Sun have been taken from such a close distance. During its first perihelion, the point in the spacecraft’s elliptical orbit closest to the Sun, Solar Orbiter got as close as 77 million kilometres from the star’s surface, about half the distance between the Sun and Earth. The spacecraft will eventually make much closer approaches to the Sun. The spacecraft is now in its cruise phase, gradually adjusting its orbit around the Sun. Once in its science phase, which will commence in late 2021, the spacecraft will get as close as 42 million kilometres from the Sun’s surface, closer than the planet Mercury. The spacecraft’s operators will gradually tilt Solar Orbiter’s orbit to enable the probe to get the first proper view of the Sun’s poles.

-        An international mission

Solar Orbiter is a space mission of international collaboration between ESA and NASA. Twelve ESA Member States (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) as well as NASA contributed to the science payload. Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal contributed to building the spacecraft but not to the science payload.

-        Additional information for media in the UK and Ireland

The UK played a key role in development of the Solar Orbiter mission. The spacecraft was built by Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage. British scientists are involved in four out of the ten instruments aboard the spacecraft. Researchers from Imperial College London and the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (UCL MSSL) lead the teams behind Solar Orbiter’s Magnetometer (MAG) and Solar Wind Analyser (SWA) respectively. UCL also has a key role in the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI), which will enable the scientists to study processes on the Sun in greater detail than ever before. STFC RAL Space led the consortium that developed and built the extreme ultraviolet imaging spectrometer SPICE

UK Space Agency media contacts:
Gareth Bethell – UK Space Agency
Gareth.bethell@ukspaceagency.gov.uk

In Ireland, ENBIO developed the black coating for the heat shield, an enabling technology for the mission.

For contributions from the other Member states, please refer to the translated versions of the Call for Media here.

Event programme

Members of the public can watch an online press briefing at https://www.esa.int/esawebtv on Thursday 16 July at 14:00 CEST (13:00 BST).

Among the speakers will be:

Daniel Müller – Solar Orbiter Project Scientist at ESA

Holly R. Gilbert – Solar Orbiter Project Scientist at NASA

David Berghmans – Royal Observatory of Belgium, Principal Investigator of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI)

Sami Solanki – Director of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Principal Investigator of the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI)

Christopher J. Owen – Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, Principal Investigator of the Solar Wind Analyser (SWA)

Jose-Luis Pellon-Bailon –  Solar Orbiter Deputy Spacecraft Operations Manager

Media representatives with valid press credentials should register via https://www.esa.int/Contact/mediaregistration by Wednesday 15 July 12:00 CEST.

Questions to the panel can be asked via media@esa.int.

Social media

Follow ESA at @ESA
Follow ESA Solar Orbiter at @ESASolarOrbiter
Follow ESA Science at @esascience
The official hashtags are #SolarOrbiter, #TheSunUpCloseand #WeAreAllSolarOrbiters

Information

More information about Solar Orbiter: https://www.esa.int/solarorbiter

In-depth information about Solar Orbiter: https://sci.esa.int/solar-orbiter

Images

Images of Solar Orbiter: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Search?SearchText=solar+orbiter&result_type=images

ESA’s Photo Library for Professionals
https://www.esa-photolibrary.com/

Terms and conditions for using ESA images
https://www.esa.int/spaceinimages/ESA_Multimedia/Copyright_Notice_Images

For questions or more information related to ESA images, please contact directly spaceinimages@esa.int.

Videos

Videos of Solar Orbiter:
https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Search?SearchText=solar+orbiter&result_type=videos

ESA’s Video Library for Professionals
http://www.esa.int/esatv/Videos_for_Professionals

Terms and conditions for using ESA videos:
https://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Terms_and_Conditions

For questions or more information related to ESA videos, please contact directly spaceinvideos@esa.int.

About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.

ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Slovenia is an Associate Member.

ESA has established formal cooperation with seven Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes as well as with Eumetsat for the development of meteorological missions.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space. ESA also has a strong applications programme developing services in Earth observation, navigation and telecommunications.

Learn more about ESA at www.esa.int

For further questions please contact:

ESA Newsroom and Media Relations Office – Ninja Menning

Email: media@esa.int

Tel: +31 71 565 6409