Photos: Solar Orbiter blasts off to map the sun’s poles

Europe and NASA's Solar Orbiter rocketed into space Sunday night (early Monday morning IST) on an unprecedented mission to capture the first pictures of the sun's elusive poles. Scientists say the craft is expected to provide unprecedented insights into the Sun's atmosphere, its winds and its magnetic fields, including how it shapes the heliosphere, the vast swath of space that encompasses our system.

Updated On Feb 10, 2020 06:25 PM IST 7 Photos
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A wide angle and long exposure shot, shows the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket, lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.Europe and NASA's Solar Orbiter rocketed into space Sunday night on an unprecedented mission to capture the first pictures of the sun's elusive poles. (Malcolm Denemark / Florida Today via AP)

A wide angle and long exposure shot, shows the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket, lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.Europe and NASA's Solar Orbiter rocketed into space Sunday night on an unprecedented mission to capture the first pictures of the sun's elusive poles. (Malcolm Denemark / Florida Today via AP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 06:25 PM IST
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By journeying out of the ecliptic plane—the belt of space roughly aligned with the Sun’s equator, through which the planets orbit—it will acquire the first-ever images of the sun’s polar regions. Drawing on gravity assists from Earth and Venus, Solar Orbiter will slingshot itself into a bird’s eye view, reaching its primary orbit in two years’ time. (Joe Skipper / REUTERS)

By journeying out of the ecliptic plane—the belt of space roughly aligned with the Sun’s equator, through which the planets orbit—it will acquire the first-ever images of the sun’s polar regions. Drawing on gravity assists from Earth and Venus, Solar Orbiter will slingshot itself into a bird’s eye view, reaching its primary orbit in two years’ time. (Joe Skipper / REUTERS)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 06:25 PM IST
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The rocket was visible for four full minutes after lift-off, piercing the night sky. Europe’s project scientist Daniel Mueller was thrilled, calling it “picture perfect.” His NASA counterpart, scientist Holly Gilbert, exclaimed, “One word: Wow.” NASA declared success 1 1/2 hours later, once the Solar Orbiter’s solar wings were unfurled. (Joe Skipper / REUTERS)

The rocket was visible for four full minutes after lift-off, piercing the night sky. Europe’s project scientist Daniel Mueller was thrilled, calling it “picture perfect.” His NASA counterpart, scientist Holly Gilbert, exclaimed, “One word: Wow.” NASA declared success 1 1/2 hours later, once the Solar Orbiter’s solar wings were unfurled. (Joe Skipper / REUTERS)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 06:25 PM IST
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At its closest approach, Solar Orbiter will be nearer to the Sun than Mercury, a mere 42 million kilometers away. The only spacecraft to previously fly over the Sun’s poles was another joint ESA/NASA venture, the Ulysses, launched in 1990. But it got no closer than the Earth is. “You can’t really get much closer than Solar Orbiter is going and still look at the Sun,” ESA’s Muller said. (Yann Schreiber / AFP)

At its closest approach, Solar Orbiter will be nearer to the Sun than Mercury, a mere 42 million kilometers away. The only spacecraft to previously fly over the Sun’s poles was another joint ESA/NASA venture, the Ulysses, launched in 1990. But it got no closer than the Earth is. “You can’t really get much closer than Solar Orbiter is going and still look at the Sun,” ESA’s Muller said. (Yann Schreiber / AFP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 06:25 PM IST
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An illustration depicts the Solar Orbiter in front of the Sun. Ten instruments on board will record myriad observations to help scientists unlock clues about what drives solar winds and flares. To protect the instruments, engineers devised a heat shield with an outer coating made of burned bone charcoal similar to what was used in prehistoric cave paintings. It can withstand temperatures up to nearly 530 degrees Celsius. (ESA/ATG medialab, NASA/SDO/P. Testa (CfA) viaAP)

An illustration depicts the Solar Orbiter in front of the Sun. Ten instruments on board will record myriad observations to help scientists unlock clues about what drives solar winds and flares. To protect the instruments, engineers devised a heat shield with an outer coating made of burned bone charcoal similar to what was used in prehistoric cave paintings. It can withstand temperatures up to nearly 530 degrees Celsius. (ESA/ATG medialab, NASA/SDO/P. Testa (CfA) viaAP)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 06:25 PM IST
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The spacecraft sits atop launch pad 41. Also embedded in the heat shield are five peepholes that will take measurements in X-ray, ultraviolet, visible and other wavelengths. The observations will shed light on other stars, providing clues as to the potential habitability of worlds in other solar systems. The mission is also expected to glean insight into how astronauts can be protected from radiation in space. (Steve Nesius / REUTERS)

The spacecraft sits atop launch pad 41. Also embedded in the heat shield are five peepholes that will take measurements in X-ray, ultraviolet, visible and other wavelengths. The observations will shed light on other stars, providing clues as to the potential habitability of worlds in other solar systems. The mission is also expected to glean insight into how astronauts can be protected from radiation in space. (Steve Nesius / REUTERS)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 06:25 PM IST
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The spacecraft is rolled to the launchpad. Ulysses flew over the sun’s poles, but from farther afield and with no cameras on board. It’s been silent for more than a decade. Europe and NASA’s SOHO spacecraft, launched in 1995, is still sending back valuable solar data. More than a dozen spacecraft have focused on the sun over the past 30 years. It took until now, however, for technology to allow spacecraft to get close without being fried. (Steve Nesius / REUTERS)

The spacecraft is rolled to the launchpad. Ulysses flew over the sun’s poles, but from farther afield and with no cameras on board. It’s been silent for more than a decade. Europe and NASA’s SOHO spacecraft, launched in 1995, is still sending back valuable solar data. More than a dozen spacecraft have focused on the sun over the past 30 years. It took until now, however, for technology to allow spacecraft to get close without being fried. (Steve Nesius / REUTERS)

Updated on Feb 10, 2020 06:25 PM IST
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