NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter to provide the first views of the Sun’s unexplored polar regions from high-latitudes


Solar Orbiter — a joint NASA/ESA mission will launch from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral at 04:30 UTC on February 6 (23:30 EST, February 5). The spacecraft will provide the first views of the Sun's unexplored polar regions from high-latitudes, giving never-before-seen insight into how our star works. This major mission will also delve into the connection between the Sun and the Earth, allowing us to better understand and forecast periods of stormy space weather.

"As the main driver of space weather, it is essential to understand the behavior of the Sun to learn how to better safeguard our planet, space technology, and astronauts. Solar Orbiter will study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and what drives the constant outflow of solar wind which affects Earth," said NASA.

"The spacecraft will observe the Sun's atmosphere up close with high spatial resolution telescopes and compare these observations to measurements taken in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft– together creating a one-of-a-kind picture of how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system."

The agencies have opened online applications for social media enthusiasts to watch the launch. This edition will be held at ESA's mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany, from February 5 to 6, 2020, where up to 40 applicants will be selected. 

The online applications website will open on Tuesday, January 7, and all applications must be submitted no later than Monday, January 13, at 11:00 UTC (12:00 CET). Applications from anyone are welcome, as long as the applicant is 18 years of age on February 5, 2020. Complete details about the application are posted on ESA's website.

Questions such as how a star is born, how the planets developed, how ESA flies sophisticated missions, for instance, will be addressed during the launch.


Image credit: ESA

ESA guaranteed that invitees will experience the following:

  • Behind-the-scenes guided tour of ESA’s mission control facilities
  • Meet the Solar Orbiter Flight Director and other mission experts
  • Meet and interact with ESA and European scientists and researchers
  • Receive briefings and updates on solar physics, space weather, and space debris
  • Join the launch media briefing

Furthermore, ESA noted that this event is designed for enthusiasts who:

  • Actively use one or more social networking platforms and tools to disseminate information to a unique audience
  • Regularly produce new content that features multimedia elements
  • Have the potential to reach a large number of people using digital platforms
  • Reach a unique audience, separate and distinctive from traditional news media and/or ESA audiences
  • Have an established history of posting content on social media platforms
  • Have previous postings that are highly visible, respected and widely recognized
  • Follow one or more of ESA’s social media channels

Applicants will be responsible to make their own travel arrangements and cover their own costs, ESA added.

Selected participants and those on the waiting list will receive an invitation email with confirmation information and further instructions no later than January 14.

Featured image credit: ESA


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