Solar Orbiter Blasts Off on Historic Mission to Capture First Look at Sun’s Poles

Solar Orbiter Blasts Off on Historic Mission to Capture First Look at Sun's Poles

Photo Credit: Twitter/ ESA

Solar Orbiter was made in Europe, along with nine science instruments

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Europe and NASA’s Solar Orbiter rocketed into space Sunday night
  • Solar Orbiter won’t venture close enough to penetrate the corona
  • It will manoeuvre into an orbit that will take it over both poles

Europe and NASA’s Solar Orbiter rocketed into space Sunday night on an unprecedented mission to capture the first pictures of the Sun’s elusive poles. The $1.5 billion (roughly Rs. 10,700 crores) spacecraft will join NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, launched 1.5 years ago, in coming perilously close to the sun in order to unveil its secrets.

While Solar Orbiter won’t venture close enough to penetrate the Sun’s corona, or crown-like outer atmosphere, like Parker, it will manoeuvre into a unique out-of-plane orbit that will take it over both poles, never photographed before. Together with powerful ground observatories, the Sun-staring space duo will be like an orchestra, according to Gunther Hasinger, the European Space Agency’s science director.

“Every instrument plays a different tune, but together they play the symphony of the Sun,” Hasinger said.

Solar Orbiter was made in Europe, along with nine science instruments. NASA provided the 10th instrument and arranged the late-night launch from Cape Canaveral.