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Coronal mass ejection hits the solar probe before it flies over Venus

In the early hours of the morning of Sunday 4 September, solar orbit fly high Venus For a gravitational assist maneuver that changes the probe’s orbit, bringing it closer to the Sun. As if trying to attract the attention of the probe as it approached another object in the solar system, the sun shot out Coronal mass ejection (CME) is directly against the spacecraft and the planet just two days before their closest approach and data now reveals that.

On August 30, a large coronal mass ejected from the Sun in the direction of Venus. Not long after, the storm reached the second planet from the sun. As data continues to arrive from the Solar Orbiter, this reveals the importance of “in situ” observation of space weather and its effects on objects and spacecraft in the Solar System. Fortunately, there were no negative effects on the spacecraft, as ESA-NASA’s Solar Observatory is designed to withstand and measure our star’s violent outbursts.

Venus flyby

The Solar Orbiter is a quarter of its decade-long mission to closely observe the Sun and look at its mysterious poles. Its orbit was chosen to be in close resonance with Venus, meaning that it returns to the planet’s circumference every few orbits to use its gravity to alter or tilt its orbit. This third flight of Venus took place on Sunday, September 4 at 01:26 UTC, when the solar orbiter passed 12,500 kilometers from the center of the planet, some 6000 kilometers from its gaseous “surface”.

The distance from Venus, the approach angle and the velocity have been precisely mapped to achieve exactly the desired effect of pulling the planet’s great gravity, bringing it closer to the sun than ever before. “The close approach went exactly according to plan, thanks to a great deal of planning by our colleagues at Flight Dynamics and the diligent care of the flight control team,” explains Jose Luis Belon Belon, Director of Solar Vehicle Operations.By exchanging “orbital energy” with Venus, the Solar Orbiter used the planet’s gravity to change its orbit without the need for huge amounts of expensive fuel. When it returns to the Sun, the spacecraft’s closest approach will be about 4.5 million km closer than before.“.

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Understand the particles that pose a radiation hazard

Data sent back to Earth since the Solar Orbiter encountered the solar storm shows how its local environment has changed with the passing of the Great CME. Although some instruments had to be turned off as they approached Venus, to protect them from diffused sunlight reflecting off the planet’s surface, Solar Orbiter’s “in situ” instruments remained operational, including particle and solar surges.

The sun continuously emits particles, mainly protons and electrons, but also some ionized atoms such as helium. When particularly large flares are cast and plasma is ejected from the Sun, these particles are collected and carried with it, accelerating to near-relativistic speeds. It is these particles that pose a radiological hazard to astronauts and spacecraft.

Improving our understanding of CMEs and monitoring their progress as they transit the Solar System is an important part of the Solar Orbiter’s mission. By observing CMEs, the solar wind and the Sun’s magnetic field, the spacecraft’s 10 science instruments provide new insights into how the 11-year cycle of solar activity works. Ultimately, these results will help us better predict periods of space storms and protect planet Earth from violent sun eruptions.