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NASA and ESA Aim to Study Sun’s Poles Through Solar Orbiter Mission

A new spacecraft is traveling to the Sun to capture the first-ever imagery of its south and north poles. On Tuesday, NASA announced that it is going to launch a new spaceship headed towards the sun in the upcoming month. The solar orbiter project is a collaborative effort of the American space agency and the ESA (European Space Agency). According to NASA, the Solar Orbiter spacecraft will take off for the first time from the US’ Cape Canaveral on 7th February. Reportedly, the spaceship will make use of the gravitational force of Earth and Venus to jump out of the ecliptic plane. Russell Howard, a space researcher at US Naval Research Lab, said so far before Solar Orbiter; all solar imaging instruments have remained in an ecliptic plane or near it.

The ecliptic plane is the path of space, unevenly positioned with the equator of the sun. All planets in the solar system revolve around the sun on this path only. Thus Sun plays a crucial role in forming space surrounding us. Its enormous magnetic field covers above and beyond Pluto. Even more, the field paves an expressway for solar wind or charged solar particles. The scientists said when bursts of solar wind strike Earth, they can trigger weather storms in the space. As a result, the calamities may obstruct the functioning of communication satellites and GPS. In some worst-case scenarios, they can also impose a risk to astronauts.

Thus in order to get ready for the upcoming solar storms, researchers observe the magnetic field of the Sun. Well, the scenario offers the best results with a straight forward view but provides noisier data from a steeper viewing angle. Holly Gilbert, NASA’s project researcher for the mission, said the poles are mainly essential for them. She added the poles enable them to model more precisely. Above all, researchers need a pretty accurate prototype of the universal magnetic field for predicting space weather events. So Solar Orbiter will keep a great and aerial view of the Sun’s pole. Well, it is the second time NASA is launching a solar mission to the internal solar system. Before this, in 2018, it had launched the Parker Solar Probe to explore the outer ring of the sun.