Despite being the most massive object in our Solar System, humanity has not been able to reach the host star in the cosmic neighborhood. Contradictorily, the Sun, which has provided us with the energy necessary for life, is extremely dangerous for mankind at distances closer to that of our Earth. For this reason, solar physics has faced great challenges to study the Astro-Major Star, and now that ESA and NASA have launched the Solar Orbiter, it will soon reach the closest approach that a probe has ever been to the Sun.
Don’t miss this: The different types of planets, explained
According to a press release from the European Space Agency (ESA), the Solar Orbiter is currently 74 million kilometers from the Sun. A similar distance to the one approached a few months ago by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which became the first mission to touch the Solar System’s host star.
Amid Venusian and terrestrial gravitational fields
But astrophysics continues to advance, and now the Solar Orbiter, which began its observations in November 2021, will break this record to go as close as humanity has ever been to the Sun. An unprecedented opportunity to study the solar climate, that is, the behavior of the nuclear fusion reactions that are brewing relentlessly in the star. For this reason, the controllers of the spacecraft launched by ESA in conjunction with NASA are taking precautions to face the solar winds and the volatile corona that characterizes the Astro Major, since it is well known that the constant flow of particles that sometimes represents a limiting factor for human communications.
ESA also announced that, although the mission is taking a blustery route to the star, it is also saving energy by taking advantage of the gravitational fields of both the Earth and Venus to propel itself closer to the center of the system. In addition, its displacement has allowed it to take a large number of interesting captures of the path to the Sun.
Closest images of the Sun
The milestone is such that it is practically the first time that a man-made instrument has passed through such places in the cosmic neighborhood. Daniel Müller, a researcher with ESA’s Solar Orbiter project, said, “as of this moment, we are ‘stepping into the unknown’ when it comes to observations of the Sun.”
The Solar Orbiter will reach Mercury’s orbit on March 14, where it will settle in for its journey toward the Sun, arriving at the star’s closest point on March 26. During its stay near the center of the system, the probe will collect data on the solar surface that is expected to shed light on understanding space weather and space weather behavior.
Shortly after the Solar Orbiter reaches its closest point to the Sun, the first closest images ever seen of our host star are scheduled to reach Earth. In the meantime, ESA has shared a video showing solar activity during the period from January 1, 2022, to March 2, 2022.
Text courtesy of Ecoosfera