Solar Orbiter delivers science results

Today sees the publication of a wealth of results from the spacecraft’s cruise phase. That's not bad for a mission yet to have entered its main science phase. RoCS - Rosseland Centre for Solar Physics is part of the mission.

Illustration of the spacecraft Solar Orbiter in front of the Sun

In 2022, Solar Orbiter will close to within 48 million kilometres of the Sun’s surface, more than 20 million kilometres closer than in 2021. Illustration: ESA

Forensic observations of the solar surface, measurements of a giant outburst of energetic particles, and an encounter with a comet’s tail are just some of the highlights out of the more than fifty papers comprising a special issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

“The results published today demonstrate the variety of solar science that the mission is making possible, and signals the wealth of data that is now flowing back to Earth,” says Yannis Zouganelis, ESA Deputy Project Scientist for Solar Orbiter.

solar jets
Solar jets represent are collimated, beam-like plasma ejections; they are ubiquitous in the solar atmosphere and important for our understanding of solar activities at different scales, the magnetic reconnection process, particle acceleration, coronal heating, solar wind acceleration, as well as other related phenomena. Photo: ESA

Up and going since 2020

Solar Orbiter is a collaboration between ESA and NASA. It was launched on 10 February 2020. It's cruise phase began on 15 June 2020, and lasted until 27 November 2021. During that time, the spacecraft acquired scientific data with its in-situ instruments, which are designed to measure the environment around the spacecraft. It also used its remote sensing equipment to look at the Sun in order to characterise and calibrate those instruments. Some of these data turned out to be of such good quality that they enabled the first scientific studies to be undertaken ahead of the main science phase, which began in late November 2021.

RoCS onboard

It has ten instruments onboard, six of which are remote sensing telescopes while four are instruments to process information on site. RoCS, University of Oslo, is responsible for the computer programs that convert the raw binary data from the remote-sensing instrument SPICE to a format that can be analysed by scientists.

Read more about the results and see videos taken by Solar Orbiter at the European Space Agency website.

Tags: Solar Orbiter, ESA, RoCS By Eyrun Thune/ESA
Published Dec. 15, 2021 12:44 PM - Last modified Dec. 15, 2021 12:53 PM