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Science

Solar Orbiter reaches 77 million km from the Sun in its first approach

Madrid / Solar Orbiter, ESA’s mission to explore the Sun, has made its first approach to our star, reaching just 77 million kilometers from its surface, which would be half the distance that separates it from Earth. 

During the week following this first perihelion (the point along its orbit of closest approach to the Sun), mission scientists will test the spacecraft’s ten instruments, including the six telescopes that, for the first time, will capture close-up images. of the Sun simultaneously.

The images will be published in mid-July and will be the closest photographs of the Sun ever taken, according to Daniel Müller, a scientist with the Solar Orbiter project at the European Space Agency (ESA).

Müller explained that “there have been close-ups with a higher resolution,” such as those captured this year by the Daniel K. Inouye four-meter solar telescope in Hawaii.

However, due to the atmosphere that stands between terrestrial telescopes and the Sun, they can only see a small part of the solar spectrum compared to what is observed from space.

NASA’s Solar Parker probe, launched in 2018, flies closer to the Sun than the European mission, but it does not have telescopes capable of looking directly at our star.

Data collection and analysis

The main objective of these first observations is to check whether the Solar Orbiter telescopes are ready for future scientific observations, ESA explained in a statement.

For the first time, the images from the telescopes can be combined “and see how they collect complementary data from different parts of the Sun, including the surface, the outer atmosphere or corona, and the wider heliosphere that surrounds it,” added the expert.

Scientists will also analyze data from the four instruments “in situ,” which measure the properties of the environment around the spacecraft, such as the magnetic field and the solar wind – a stream of energetic particles, primarily protons and electrons.

“It is the first time that our four instruments ‘in situ’ have been operating so close to the Sun, so they will give us an unprecedented view of the structure and composition of the solar wind,” according to Yannis Zouganelis, associate scientist for the project.

As for these instruments, it is not a test only, but they await “new results of great interest,” he said.

Since the spacecraft is now 134 million km from Earth, it will take approximately a week for perihelion images to download via the 35-meter deep space antenna located in Malargüe, Argentina.

Scientists will then process the images before releasing them in mid-July, while data from the “in situ” instruments will be released later this year after careful calibration of the various sensors.

Solar Orbiter, launched on February 10, concludes its commissioning phase today, to make way for the cruise phase, which will run until November 2021.

During the main scientific phase, which will begin immediately afterward, the spacecraft will reach just 42 million km from the Sun’s surface, getting closer than the planet Mercury. (June 15, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)

(Automatic translation)

The related video news (December 2019):


Comprensión y vocabulario

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Question 1
En el texto se dice que...  
A
la ESA aún no ha realizado ninguna misión para estudiar la superficie del Sol.
B
la ESA comunica que Solar Orbiter se encuentra ya a escasos kilómetros de la superficie del Sol.
C
Solar Orbiter ya ha realizado su primer acercamiento al Sol.
Question 2
Según el texto...  
A
las imágenes que se obtengan de esta misión serán publicadas a finales de este mes.
B
los científicos no creen que esta nave pueda obtener imágenes del Sol con una mejor resolución.
C
los telescopios de Solar Orbiter serán probados la semana que viene.
Question 3
En el texto se dice que...  
A
está previsto que esta nave solo recoga datos de una zona muy concreta de la superficie solar.
B
Solar Orbiter fue lanzada al espacio hace un par de meses.
C
se quiere comprobar si los telescopios de Solar Orbiter podrán ser utilizados en otras observaciones científicas.
Question 4
Según el texto...  
A
los telescopios de la sonda Solar Parker no pueden "mirar" de forma directa el Sol.
B
a día de hoy, la sonda Solar Parker se encuentra más alejada de la superfice solar que Solar Orbiter.
C
la NASA volverá a lanzar al espacio la sonda Solar Parker para comprobar cómo funcionan sus telescopios.
Question 5
En el texto se dice que...  
A
los científicos no tienen mucho interés en obtener más información sobre los vientos solares.
B
Solar Orbiter va a realizar mediciones "in situ" del campo magnético del Sol.
C
ninguno de los instrumentos de Solar Orbiter podrá realizar mediciones desde el lugar en que se encuentre en ese momento.
Question 6
En el texto, la expresión "in situ" significa...    
A
"en el lugar".
B
"en silencio".
C
"en un lugar muy alejado".
Question 7
En el texto, "heliosfera"...  
A
se refiere al núcleo del Sol.
B
es el nombre que recibe el planeta que se encuentra más alejado del Sol.
C
hace referencia a aquella región que está sometida a la influencia del campo magnético del Sol.
Question 8
En el vídeo se dice que...  
A
se desmiente que haya ondas de plasma dentro de la corona del Sol.
B
la sonda Parker ya ha completado la mitad de las travesías orbitales planificadas.
C
se han registrado cambios rápidos de dirección del campo magnético del Sol.
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