Space – The “Solar Orbiter” probe is supposed to fly very close to Venus, Earth’s neighboring planet, on its mission to the sun on Sunday. At 11:39 a.m. and 20 seconds (CET), it will be only 7,448 kilometers from Venus.
“The probe is slowed down and the path changed so that you can also take a look at the poles of the sun,” said the head of the Esa mission operations in the control center in Darmstadt, Simon Plum, of the German press agency.
In the control center, however, only a small team will watch the flyby due to the corona pandemic, said the European space agency Esa. A lot of things run from home. “It’s a scenario with the greatest possible distance.”
Switzerland involved in the mission
The mission of Esa and the US space agency NASA, costing around 1.5 billion euros, was launched in February from Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida. It should bring new knowledge about our home star, which is around 150 million kilometers away.
There are ten scientific instruments on board the 1.8 ton shear orbiter. The University of Bern is participating in the mission with two instruments on board the probe. These instruments are designed to provide data from ionized particles in Venus’ atmosphere.
Researchers hope to gain new knowledge about the sun and the magnetic field, which drives everything else such as solar storms or eruptions and thus also has an impact on our home planet.
Orbiter is on course for the sun
“Solar Orbiter” is said to fly within 42 million kilometers of the sun. In order to be protected from temperatures of several hundred degrees, the probe has a titanium heat shield.
The first images of the orbiter from a distance of 77 million kilometers were presented in July. According to experts, no mission to take pictures of the star has been this close.