The Solar Orbiter space probe has reached the point closest to the Sun on its two-year journey through space. It approached the Sun at an altitude of 48 million km, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced Saturday. This is less than a third of the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The “solar orbit” is closer to the center of the solar system than any spacecraft before it. The mission should yield new images of the star.

The Solar Orbiter mission is worth about 1.5 billion euros, and is being carried out by the European Space Agency ESA and the US Space Agency, NASA. There are ten scientific instruments on board the 1.8-ton orbiter. Researchers hope to gain new insights into the sun and its magnetic field. Not only do the instruments measure electromagnetic fields and solar particles streaming around the space probe, but they can also look at the Sun itself from a very close distance for the first time.

As early as June 2020, the probe flew to a distance of 77 million kilometers from the Sun and took pictures of mysterious “fires” on the star. The current highly elliptical orbit of the “solar module” will change slightly over the next three years: the spacecraft will reach its closest point to the sun about every six months. During the next pass, scheduled for October, the space probe will fly within 42 million kilometers from the sun.

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From: APA / dpa