Solar Orbiter makes its first close pass of the sun

The European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter mad...

Posted: Jun 15, 2020 9:16 AM

The European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter made its first close pass of the sun on Monday, getting as close as 77 million kilometers (48 million miles) from the sun's surface.

The spacecraft's first perihelion -- the point in the orbit closest to the sun -- was about half the distance between the sun and Earth.

The probe made its closest approach at around 3.35 a.m Eastern standard time (07.35 UTC), Daniel Müller, the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter project scientist, told CNN.

Müller said images taken with telescopes aboard the probe, which will be released in mid-July, will be the closest images of the sun ever captured.

The Solar Orbiter, whose mission is a joint collaboration between the European Space Agency and NASA, was launched in February to study the sun.

"We have never taken pictures of the sun from a closer distance than this," Muller said.

Solar Orbiter is equipped with 10 instruments that can capture observations of the sun's corona (which is its atmosphere), the poles and the solar disk, or circular visible surface of the sun. It also has instruments to measure the sun's magnetic fields and solar wind, or the energized stream of particles emitted by the sun that reach across our solar system.

Understanding the sun's magnetic field and solar wind are key because they contribute to space weather, which affects Earth by interfering with networked systems like GPS, communications and even astronauts on the International Space Station.

The sun's magnetic field is so massive that it stretches beyond Pluto, providing a pathway for solar wind to travel directly across the solar system.

"Our ultraviolet imaging telescopes have the same spatial resolution as those of NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO), which takes high-resolution images of the sun from an orbit close to Earth. Because we are currently at half the distance to the sun, our images have twice SDO's resolution during this perihelion," Muller said in a statement.

Solar Orbiter has now started its cruise phase. In this phase, the spacecraft will get even closer to the sun's surface, around 42 million kilometers (26 million miles) -- closer than Mercury.

The spacecraft's four in-situ instruments -- those physically exposed to the outside environment -- will already be fully operational and will measure the properties of solar wind along its path. These four instruments provide a way of "touching" the environment around the spacecraft, while the other six provide what is called remote sensing.

"After one final swing-by at Earth in November 2021, Solar Orbiter will get closer to the sun than Mercury, our innermost planet," Muller told CNN via email. "The mission will then use Venus' gravity repeatedly to leave the ecliptic plane of the solar system and ultimately image the sun's uncharted polar regions for the first time," he added.

West Lafayette
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 45°
Kokomo
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 39°
Rensselaer
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 40°
Fowler
Overcast
43° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 40°
Williamsport
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 40°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
44° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 37°
Frankfort
Overcast
48° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 43°
Delphi
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 42°
Monticello
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 42°
Logansport
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 39°
Rainfall & even some storms are ahead (with a bit of snow/sleet mix at the onset).
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 300913

Reported Deaths: 5332
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41330845
Lake26364448
Allen17299290
Elkhart16665212
St. Joseph16319220
Hamilton12459164
Vanderburgh9428112
Tippecanoe826727
Porter791279
Johnson6139164
Hendricks5807154
Vigo574474
Monroe525247
Clark495374
Delaware4789103
Madison4760119
LaPorte446894
Kosciusko446139
Howard325575
Warrick316072
Floyd306177
Bartholomew303262
Wayne295261
Cass293431
Marshall289944
Grant258747
Noble246846
Hancock243749
Henry237136
Boone235154
Dubois230430
Dearborn208829
Jackson206033
Morgan200643
Knox178017
Gibson177022
Clinton174920
Shelby174554
Lawrence171646
DeKalb171229
Adams165219
Miami155114
Wabash153018
Daviess152243
Fayette145233
Steuben141113
Jasper138311
Harrison137624
LaGrange136629
Montgomery131226
Whitley129910
Ripley123714
Decatur123542
Huntington122310
Posey118913
Putnam118326
Wells118327
Randolph117819
White117421
Clay115621
Jefferson114214
Greene100253
Scott99818
Jay95012
Starke89221
Sullivan86615
Fulton81117
Perry80921
Jennings80514
Spencer8047
Fountain7378
Washington7176
Carroll66813
Franklin65925
Orange65728
Vermillion5832
Owen5816
Parke5416
Newton54012
Tipton53726
Rush5216
Blackford51211
Pike50218
Pulaski36810
Martin3485
Brown3263
Benton3251
Crawford2781
Union2621
Switzerland2473
Warren2352
Ohio2257
Unassigned0265

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events