Astronomers have made public the first scientific data collected by three onboard instruments from the Solar Orbiter. Thanks to them, scientists have already been able to confirm the existence of reversals of the direction of the magnetic field inside the orbit of Mercury in the solar wind, which were previously discovered by the Parker probe, according to the website of Imperial College London.
Launch of Solar Orbiter into space took place in February 2020. The probe is equipped with ten scientific instruments, which are protected from overheating and flows of charged particles by a multilayer shield. The scientific program is designed for nine years, during which time the device will make 22 revolutions around the star and will be able to study coronal mass ejections, the mechanisms of acceleration of the solar wind, the formation of prominences and the sun's corona, and in 2025-2029 it will first study the polar regions of the star and receive their images.
On June 15, 2020, Solar Orbiter flew at a minimum distance of 77 million kilometers from our star, thereby successfully passing its first perihelion. The scientific data collected during the flight was then transmitted to Earth and analyzed by scientists, in particular, the researchers were able to see numerous small flares on the Sun.
September 30, 2020 the scientific data collected since June onboard devices EPD (Energetic Particle Detector) and RPW (Radio and Plasma Waves instrument) and magnetometer MAG, were laid out in the open access. Solar Wind Plasma Analyzer (SWA) data will be available at a later date. For a complete description of the principles of scientific instruments and the tasks of the probe, see the latest special issue of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics , which was released simultaneously with the data archive.
Some of the data received by the probe have already been analyzed by scientists. In particular, the researchers note that at present, due to the minimum solar activity, favorable conditions have developed for the operation of a magnetometer, which studied the direction and magnitude of the Sun's magnetic field at different points. The device was able to detect waves caused by the flux of protons and electrons, as well as to confirm the existence in the solar wind of sharp turns (reversals) of the direction of the magnetic field lines inside the orbit of Mercury, which were previously detected by the Parker probe.
Another device currently exploring the Sun close up is the Parker probe, which recently made another record close flight past the star. He has already helped scientists understand the mechanisms of particle acceleration near the Sun, showed the movement of the solar wind, and also saw the dust trail of the asteroid Phaethon and the comet NEOWISE .