On February 10th 2020 the European Space Agency ESA in conjunction with NASA launched the Solar Orbiter on top a ULA Atlas V rocket from launch complex 41 Cape Canaveral Florida with mission goals to pass near the sun and still be able to photograph it and acquire new scientific data including a first time study of the solar poles.
In a few years with a gravity assist by the planet Venus the orbit will become more inclined for the highly anticipated first look at the solar poles and it’s magnetic fields.
ESA released the first photos from the Solar Orbiter on July 16th which were taken on May 30th 2020 by the HRIEUV telescope from 47 million miles away.
These photos show smaller solar flares called “Campfires” which are about the size of a small European country. Data from Solar Orbiter will help to understand why the solar atmosphere is hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun by millions of degrees.
Why is it important to study the sun? Just some of the issues with the energy thrown off the sun towards our Earth is that it can disrupt GPS navigation systems, communication with satellites, can cause disruption to electrical power grids across our globe and radiation exposure on long duration space flights.
Photo Credits of the Sun by ESA
Photo Credits of launch by Scott Schilke