NASA Partners With ESA for Solar Orbiter Mission to Take First Peek at Sun’s Poles

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HIGHLIGHTS
  • NASA has collaborated with the European Space Agency
  • Solar Orbiter will have its first opportunity to launch on February 7
  • Its bird’s eye view will give it the first-ever look at the Sun’s poles

NASA has collaborated with the European Space Agency (ESA) for a mission to snap the first pictures of the Sun’s north and south poles.

The new spacecraft, Solar Orbiter, will have its first opportunity to launch on February 7, NASA said on Monday.

Launching on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the spacecraft will use Venus’s and Earth’s gravity to swing itself out of the ecliptic plane — the swath of space, roughly aligned with the Sun’s equator, where all planets orbit.

From there, Solar Orbiter’s bird’s eye view will give it the first-ever look at the Sun’s poles.

“Up until Solar Orbiter, all solar imaging instruments have been within the ecliptic plane or very close to it,” said Russell Howard, space scientist at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C. and principal investigator for one of Solar Orbiter’s ten instruments.

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