A better understanding of the Sun, how it works and what impact it has on Earth is what the Solar Orbiter mission, in which the European Space Agency and NASA collaborate, is trying to reveal. The space probe is set to launch in February 2020 from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The study of the Sun is of great importance because it is the only star that we can examine closely, so we can view precisely how it works. In general, the Solar Orbiter mission would give scientists fundamental information about how the rest of the stars work.
This mission would also allow astronomers to collect essential data for the prediction of space climatology, including solar storms and how these eruptions affect life on Earth. The final goal in this direction is to help us understand the magnetic fields, how they are generated, and how to forecast what may happen inside the Sun and how it would affect our planet.
Solar Orbiter mission, an ESA and NASA collaboration, relies on two main instruments, the PHI and METIS
PHI is a telescope to study the polarization of light, which makes it easier to analyze the magnetic fields of the Sun. On the other hand, the METIS is a coronagraph which would primarily produce an artificial eclipse to reveal the Sun’s corona, a layer that is not ordinarily visible. Both instruments are made of high-tech materials and boast lenses that resist cosmic and solar radiations.
Besides, the ESA and NASA Solar Orbiter would be the first space mission to use a telescope with liquid crystals to measure polarization which is the one that would provide data about the magnetic field of the Sun. These liquid crystals resemble those used in TV screens or smartphones.
After ESA and NASA Solar Orbiter takes off in February 2020, it would take about three years for the solar probe to reach the vicinity of the Sun to test and calibrate its instruments. Once at that point, the probe would spend three more years gathering data.