Solar Orbiter. Credit: ESA

Our understanding of space weather, its origin on the sun, and its progression and threat to Earth, comes with critical gaps—gaps that the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter hopes to help fill after its upcoming launch.

The mission to study the physics of the sun will be the first to capture images of its poles. The orbiter will work in coordination with NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which launched in August 2018. Researchers from the University of Michigan are involved with both missions.
Orbiter is scheduled to launch Feb. 7 from Cape Canaveral.
Solar storms are torrents of charged particles and electromagnetic fields from the sun that rattle the Earth’s magnetic field. Major disturbances can harm power lines and put expensive transformers at risk. They can also damage satellites. Until recently, our ability to predict threats from solar…

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