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AFP
February 10, 2020

Orbiter set to launch mission to reveal Sun’s secrets

World

AFP
February 10, 2020

Miami: The European Space Agency is set to embark upon one of its most ambitious projects to date, with the launch late on Sunday from Florida’s Cape Canaveral of its Solar Orbiter probe bound for the Sun.

The mission, due to blast off from the Kennedy Space Centre at 11:03 pm (0403 GMT Monday), is set to last up to nine years. Scientists say the craft, developed in close cooperation with NASA, is expected to provide unprecedented insights into the Sun’s atmosphere, its winds and its magnetic fields.

It will also garner the first-ever images of the Sun’s uncharted polar regions. "It will be terra incognita," Daniel Muller, ESA project scientist for the mission in the Netherlands, was quoted as telling the NASA website. "This is really exploratory science."

After a fly-by of Venus and Mercury, the satellite is set to hit a maximum speed of 245,000 kilometers per hour (150,000 mph) before settling into orbit around the Sun. The 10 state-of-the-art instruments on board will record myriad observations to help scientists unlock clues about what drives solar winds and flares. Those winds and flares emit billions of highly charged particles that impact the Earth, producing the spectacular Northern Lights.