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Europe launches SolO, a probe that takes pictures of the sun

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

SolO's main mission is to take the closest photos of our star, which will help scientists gain a better understanding of the sun's activity. To do this, SolO will position itself within the Mercury orbit, or 42 million kilometers from the Sun. According to ESA, SolO will withstand temperatures between 180 ° C and more than 500 ° C.

It is the researchers' hope that SolO helps them better understand the role of the sun in

space meteorology or the variable conditions in the Earth's space environment. Our planet is inside a plasma bubble generated by the sun covering 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 change GPS. In addition, they can also cause more radiation in space which can affect the health of astronauts up there .

Here you can see the holes that allow the probe to take pictures of the sun without damage.
Photo : ESA – S. Corvaja

SolO will also be the first mission to take photos of the sun's polar regions, which have never seen good 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's director of science . "Your data will help us better protect our planet from the global challenges of space weather."

According to the BBC the idea was born to SolO in the late 1990s. was awarded the contract to build the probe, which cost approximately 1.5 million euros in 2012. SolO was built by Airbus in Stevenage, UK, although it has been in Ottobrunn, Germany to test this last year.

One of the greatest challenges for the team has been to find out how would protect the probe from the sun's infernal temperatures. In the end, the team built a titanium shield, which has small holes for the SolO telescope to 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.

[ ESA and BBC ]

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