This is providing a confirmation to ground control – in Darmstadt, Germany – that the magnetometer on board is in good health following a successful deployment of the spacecraft’s instrument boom.
The Sun-exploring spacecraft was launched 10 February.
What’s the purpose of the mission? The Solar Orbiter is going to perform close-up observations of the Sun and its corona, measure the solar wind close to the Sun, and provide high-resolution images of its uncharted polar regions.
The data should help scientists to understand how the Sun controls the giant bubble of plasma that surrounds the whole Solar System and influences the planets within it.
The Sun-exploring spacecraft was launched 10 February. It carries ten scientific instruments, four of which measure properties of the environment around the spacecraft, especially electromagnetic characteristics of the solar wind, the stream of charged particles flowing from the Sun. Three of these ‘in situ’ instruments have sensors located on the 4.4 m-long boom, says ESA.
“We measure magnetic fields thousands of times smaller than those we are familiar with on Earth,” says Tim Horbury of Imperial College London, Principal Investigator for the Magnetometer instrument. “Even currents in electrical wires make magnetic fields far larger than what we need to measure. That’s why our sensors are on a boom, to keep them away from all the electrical activity inside the spacecraft.”
“The data we received shows how the magnetic field decreases from the vicinity of the spacecraft to where the instruments are actually deployed. This is an independent confirmation that the boom actually deployed and that the instruments will, indeed, provide accurate scientific measurements in the future.”
Note that these are the early days. The next step is for the instruments to be calibrated before the real science begins…
Back in September 2019 we covered the Solar Orbiter undergoing magnetic field simulations – see Gadget in Extremis: ESA Orbiter undergoes magnetic field simulations