The solar orbiter will graze the Earth tonight

November 27 solar orbit It will fly close to Earth before it begins its main science mission. The probe, which will pass at an altitude of only 460 kilometers, will have to cross the clouds of space debris that surround our planet, which will make this maneuver the most dangerous flight yet for a scientific mission.

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solar orbit come back to visit us Before she begins her main scientific mission: exploring the Sun and its relationship to ” space climate In fact, the probe It will fly above the ground November 27, passing through at 4:30 a.m. UTC (5:30 a.m. Paris time) just 460 km above North Africa and the Canary Islands. For comparison, the International Space Station It currently orbits at an altitude of about 420 kilometers above sea level.

This maneuver is necessary to reduce the probe’s energy and direct it toward its next pass closest to the Sun. during flyover from our planet, solar orbit However you will have to cross two zones orbitals inhabited by space debris : Ring geostationary satellites, 36000 km and the area of ​​things in it orbiting Low, about 400 km. So there is weak collision risk. Operations team solar orbit He is closely monitoring the situation and will change the course of the investigation if it is He seems to be in danger.

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Stages of the upper bridge from the ground solar orbit November 27, 2021 © ESA

Opportunity in Earth Sciences

This overview offers a unique opportunity to study Earth’s magnetic field. It’s a topic of interest because magnetic field This is the interface between us Atmosphere and the solar wind. These interactions are being studied by two other missions ofThis is amazing : The four satellites of the mission cluster, at an altitude of 60,000 km, and three satellites swarm, 400 km. Several spacecraft are needed to break the “space-time ambiguity”, that is, the uncertainty of whether a change occurred due to a probe moving from one region to another with different conditions (a change in space) or flying over an area with changing conditions (a change in time) . a general look at solar orbit It will provide more data points from which to reconstruct a state and behavior Earth’s magnetic field.

The cruise phase is complete

This overview represents an important step for the probe. NS Launched in February 2020 Until July of the same year, solar orbit It was in the commissioning phase, during which scientists and engineers tested the probe and its instruments. Since July 2020, solar orbit in the sailing phase. Meanwhile, machines On site They took measurements solar wind and other conditions around the probe, while remote sensing instruments designed to look at the Sun were in extended calibration and characterization mode.

thats good solar orbit Not yet in full scientific mode, a lot of scientific data has been produced. Daniel Muller, Project Scientist solar orbit, shows that the software upgrade ESA Ground Station Network It allowed the probe to send more data back to Earth than expected, and the scientists on the mission were quick to take advantage: more than fifty articles detailing the scientific findings of the cruise phase solar orbit It should be published in December by the magazine Astronomy and astrophysics.

Closer to the sun

Solar spacecraft’s first perihelion In June 2020, 77 million km from the Sun. In March 2022, the probe will make its second pass as close as possible to star, this time less than 50 million km. ” will be a third The distance between the sun and the earthDaniel Mueller explains. So, compared to all the high photos Precision What we already got, everything will now be magnified by about 2 times This includes new perspectives for campfire “It’s vague solar orbit Observed during the first perihelion.

solar orbit Do not approach Too close to the sun that probe Parker Solar Probe NASA, but it’s voluntary: it doesn’t just allow solar orbit To measure what happens in the solar wind, but also for transport telescopes Who can look at the sun? without destroying its with heat. The two data sets can then be compared to correlate activity on the Sun’s surface with weather report my place around the probe.

Observation Challenge

In the moments before passing close to Earth, observers notice in Canary Islands and others North Africa He would be able to see the probe lines in the sky for a while. It will move about 0.3 degrees per second, which is just over the moon’s apparent radius every second. For most observers, it would be too faint to be seen inEye Naked and too fast for telescopes to follow. So binoculars should offer the best chance of seeing them.

when solar orbit She will emerge from the Earth’s shadow, and will be on her way to rendezvous with the sun and the solar polar regions like never before. The scientific phase of this ambitious mission will have begun.

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What to remember

  • November 27 4:30 a.m. UTC (5:30 a.m. PT), solar orbit It will fly over land 460 kilometers over North Africa and the Canary Islands.
  • The probe will take the opportunity to study the Earth’s magnetic field.
  • He will then begin his main scientific mission: the exploration of the Sun and its relationship to “space weather”.
  • In March 2022, the probe will make its second pass closer to our star.

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