ESA’s Solar Orbiter hit by mass ejection from the Sun during Venus flyby

To better understand this phenomenon, the European Space Agency launched the Solar Orbiter in February 2020. Its mission is to go as close to the Sun as possible and take readings of the inner heliosphere and observe the polar regions. This is aimed at helping us understand what transpires on the Sun every time its poles flip.

The Venus flyby

The Solar Orbiter’s mission is scheduled for a decade during which it will remain in close resonance with Venus. As ESA explains on its webpage, every few orbits, SolO will keep returning to the vicinity of the planet in order to use the planet’s gravity to either alter or tilt its own orbit.

On September 4, the orbiter was approaching the planet for the third time. Its angle of approach, velocity, and distance from Venus were meticulously planned so as to get the desired effect from the maneuver. This gravity assist was aimed at putting the orbiter in an orbit that was closer to the Sun than ever before.

As the orbiter was going through the maneuver, a coronal mass ejection that erupted from the Sun on August 30 reached Venus carrying high-intensity particles.

Is SolO okay?

The flyby went perfectly as planned by the Flight Dynamics and Flight Control teams at the ESA. When the orbiter next reaches the Sun, it will be nearly 2.8 million miles (4.5 million km) closer than before.

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