We’re closest to the sun ever!
Solar Orbiter, a joint mission by NASA and the European Space Agency, has hit its first big milestone of its sun-watching mission. The Orbiter made its first close approach to the Sun, getting as close as 48 million miles to the star’s surface, which is around half the distance between the Sun and the Earth.
The spacecraft is essentially flying outside the confines of the Solar System in order to peer down at the Sun, studying the star from a high altitude.
The Solar Orbiter will travel in an elliptical orbit around the Sun, completing one orbit every 168 days. Using the six telescopes onboard the Solar Orbiter, the team will be able to capture the closest images of the Sun ever. The pictures would be released to the public next month.
The spacecraft was launched on February 9, 2020 with the Sun as its destination. It aims to resolve some of the lingering mysteries regarding the Sun’s magnetic field, solar storms and how the star affects its surrounding space environment.
NASA's Parker Solar Probe will get even closer to the Sun, a record-breaking distance of around 4 million miles from the Sun's surface. The spacecraft launched in 2018, and will reach its closest approach by June, 2025.