Europe will launch SolO, a probe that will take pictures of the Sun

The new European Union space probe, SolO, or Solar Orbiter, has a very special mission: to help scientists learn more about the star of our solar system, the Sun. This weekend, after years of work, scientists and engineers from the European Space Agency (ESA) They declared that the probe was ready to go into space.

The main mission of SolO is to take the closest photos of our star, which will help scientists get a better understanding of the activity of the Sun. To do this, SolO will be positioned within the orbit of Mercury, or 42 million kilometers from the Sol. According to ESA, SolO will have to withstand temperatures between 180 ° C and more than 500 ° C.

It is the hope of scientists that SolO helps them better understand the role of the Sun in the space meteorology, or the variable conditions of the Earth's space environment. Our planet is inside a plasma bubble generated by the Sun that covers the entire solar system, which causes the planet to experience the changes produced by solar storms.

Solar storms can destabilize electrical systems, interrupt satellite communications and alter GPS. In addition, they can also cause more radiation in space, something that can affect the health of astronauts up there.

Here you can see the holes that will allow the probe to take pictures of the Sun without being damaged.
Photo: ESA – S. Corvaja

SolO will also be the first mission to take photos of the polar regions of the Sun, which have never been seen well from Earth. Polar regions are known for their magnetic behavior and their ability to generate large amounts of particles.

"Solar Orbiter is prepared to answer some of the biggest scientific questions about our star," said Günther Hasinger, ESA science director. “Your data will help us protect our planet better of the global challenges of space meteorology. ”

According to the BBC, the idea for SolO was born at the end of the 90s. ESA granted the contract to build the probe, which has cost around 1.5 million euros, in 2012. SolO was built by Airbus in Stevenage, United Kingdom, although it has been in Ottobrunn, Germany for testing this past year.

One of the biggest challenges for the team has been finding out how it was going. to protect the probe from the infernal temperatures of the Sun. In the end, the team built a titanium shield, which has small holes so that SolO telescopes can record the star, and a series of radiators that will act as a cooling mechanism.

ESA is preparing to send the probe to Cape Canaveral at the end of the month. He will work with NASA, which has also participated in the project, to launch the probe in February 2020.