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NASA and ESA Spacecraft Conduct Unprecedented Solar Wind Study
In anticipation of April's total solar eclipse, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Solar Orbiter and NASA's Parker Solar Probe are synchronizing their orbits to conduct a collaborative study on solar wind. This joint mission marks the first time both spacecraft will be closest to the Sun simultaneously, enabling a new analysis of the solar phenomenon that affects Earth.
NASA and ESA Spacecraft Conduct Unprecedented Solar Wind Study
by Erica Marchand
Paris, France (SPX) Apr 01, 2024

The ESA-led Solar Orbiter and the NASA-led Parker Solar Probe are capitalizing on their nearest approach to the Sun to undertake a joint investigation into the solar wind, the stream of plasma ejecting from the Sun that influences the entire Solar System. This collaborative effort is timed perfectly with the upcoming total solar eclipse, providing a unique opportunity for scientific advancement.

As both spacecraft are in the closest phase of their highly elliptical orbits around the Sun, known as perihelion, they will, for the first time, align at right angles to each other relative to the Sun. This unique configuration allows for an unprecedented study of the solar wind's origins and properties. "On this day, we have a unique spacecraft configuration, where Solar Orbiter will have its full suite of instruments pointed towards the region on the Sun where the solar wind is produced that will hit Parker Solar Probe a few hours later," explained Daniel Muller, ESA Solar Orbiter Project Scientist.

The proximity of Solar Orbiter to the Sun, at about 45 million km, paired with Parker Solar Probe's even closer position at 7.3 million km, facilitates a detailed observation and direct sampling of the solar wind. This dual approach leverages Solar Orbiter's remote sensing capabilities and Parker Solar Probe's in situ instruments, offering a comprehensive view of the solar wind's generation and evolution.

This collaboration is not only expected to enhance our understanding of the solar wind but also to observe and analyze coronal mass ejections (CMEs) in unprecedented detail. "We will really hit the jackpot if Solar Orbiter observes a coronal mass ejection (CME) heading towards Parker Solar Probe," noted Andrei Zhukov from the Royal Observatory of Belgium.

The partnership between Solar Orbiter and Parker Solar Probe exemplifies the collaborative spirit of space exploration, with both missions contributing to a deeper understanding of the Sun's influence on the Solar System. In addition to this scientific endeavor, Solar Orbiter's data will assist in predicting the appearance of the solar corona during the forthcoming total solar eclipse, offering a unique perspective on this celestial event.

As the total solar eclipse approaches, set to mesmerize North America on April 8, 2024, the public is reminded to protect their eyes with proper eclipse glasses, echoing the importance of safety in observing such rare and beautiful astronomical phenomena.

Related Links
Solar Orbiter
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