Solar Orbiter blasts off on historic mission


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An undated handout image made available by ESA shows an illustration of ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) Solar Orbiter spacecraft against the backdrop of an image of the Sun.

The Solar Orbiter has blasted off from Florida on its way to unlock the mysteries of the Sun.

Nearly 1,000 scientists and engineers from Europe joined their US colleagues to watch the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket set off on its £1.3bn mission.

Solar Orbiter will capture the very first images of the Sun’s polar regions. These images will provide key insights into the poorly understood magnetic environment there, which helps drive the Sun’s 11-year cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.

The launch of Solar Orbiter is an international collaborative mission between ESA and NASA. The spacecraft launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 411 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida, USA.

The Solar Orbiter will take two years to reach the Sun before circling it 22 times, sending back high-resolution photos and measuring solar wind.



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