Orbiter Spots Venus

Solar Orbiter, a collaborative mission between ESA and NASA to study the Sun, has captured a series of images showing three solar system planets: Venus, Earth, and Mars.

This image was captured on November 18, 2020, by the SoloHI camera on board Solar Orbiter. Venus (left), Earth (middle), and Mars (right) are visible in the foreground. Stars are visible in the background, appearing to move in Solar Orbiter’s recording while the spacecraft travels around the Sun. The Sun is located on the right, outside the video frame. Image credit: ESA / NASA / Solar Orbiter / SoloHI Team / U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

This image was captured on November 18, 2020, by the SoloHI camera on board Solar Orbiter. Venus (left), Earth (middle), and Mars (right) are visible in the foreground. Stars are visible in the background, appearing to move in Solar Orbiter’s recording while the spacecraft travels around the Sun. The Sun is located on the right, outside the video frame. Image credit: ESA / NASA / Solar Orbiter / SoloHI Team / U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

“Solar Orbiter is the most complex scientific laboratory ever to have been built to study the Sun and the solar wind, taking images of our star from closer than any spacecraft before,” ESA researchers said.

“The Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) is one of the six remote-sensing instruments onboard the mission.”

“During cruise phase, these are still being calibrated during specific periods, but are switched off otherwise.”

“SoloHI takes images of the solar wind — the stream of charged particles constantly released by the Sun into outer space — by capturing the light scattered by electrons in the wind.”

“The solar wind, along with powerful ejections of plasma from the Sun, can cause disturbances in our space environment, which can potentially harm astronauts, satellites in space and disrupt ground-based technology.”

“Understanding what drives the solar wind and the acceleration of solar wind particles, will helps us better predict periods of stormy space weather.”

 

The new images were captured by the SoloHI instrument on November 18, 2020.

Venus, Earth, and Mars are moving slightly in the SoloHI field-of-view, but their apparent motions are different because of their individual orbital motions around the Sun.

Venus is the brightest object the images, roughly 48 million km (30 million miles) away from Solar Orbiter.

The distance to Earth was 251 million km (156 million miles) and 332 million km (206 million miles) to Mars on that day.

“At the moment of the recording, Solar Orbiter was on its way to Venus for its first gravity assist flyby, which happened on December 27,” the scientists said.

“Venus and Earth flybys will bring the spacecraft closer to the Sun and tilt its orbit in order to observe our star from different perspectives.”

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This article is based on text provided by the European Space Agency.

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