Constantly squinting into the sun isn't for everyone - two newcomers to space are now supposed to do it professionally. You're taking on the job of a long-lost, dependable space weatherman.
On the night of October 26th, NASA managed two successful launches in one: a Delta II rocket transported the twin probes of the Stereo mission into space without any problems. The two observatories of "Stereo" (Solar Terrestrial Relations O bservatory) should together provide three-dimensional images of the sun and its eruptions and make the course of the eruptions more predictable.
When the sun erupts, several billion tons of matter are ejected from the sun's atmosphere into space at speeds of up to 2000 kilometers per second. Such coronal ejections of matter can trigger auroras on Earth, but in extreme cases they can also damage satellites and disrupt telecommunications and energy supplies. For astronauts in regions outside the Earth's protective magnetic shield, strong solar activity can even have fatal consequences. Unfortunately, however, the eruptions directed towards the earth have not yet been observed directly. The two stereo probes should therefore take a lateral, earth-flanking observation position.
The probes will reach this post in three months after a gravitational maneuver with the moon. Different parking positions are provided for the identically constructed observatories: The front probe Stereo-A (for ahead) flies in front of the earth and is a little faster, while the probe Stereo-B (behind) flies behind the earth a little slower. Stereo-A will orbit the Sun in 344 days, Stereo-B in 386 days. Thus, the distance between the two probes to each other and to earth is steadily increasing. By combining the images taken from different angles, a three-dimensional image of solar flares can then be calculated. Data from veteran solar observers like the old Soho satellite, which has been active in space for eleven years now, can be integrated and complete the view of the solar flares.
The stereo twin is equipped with a powerful range of instruments. The main component "Secchi" (Sun Earth Connection C oronal and Heliospheric Investigation) combines four instruments with which coronal matter ejections are observed three-dimensionally from their birth to their impact on the Earth's magnetosphere should be. A camera for extremely short-wave UV light, two coronagraphs and a heliosphere analyzer are used for this purpose.
"Swaves" (Stereo/Waves) is responsible for radio waves: There is interference in the radio range from the sun to the earth orbit overhear "Plastic" (Plasma and Supra- Thermal I on C omposition), is intended to analyze the composition of the solar wind emanating from our central star and to detect protons, alpha particles and heavy ions. Also "Impact" (I n-situ M easurements of P articles and C ME T ransients) will collect and examine particles. This should enable a spatial representation of the distribution of high-energy solar matter and the local magnetic field vectors.
The mission should provide data for at least two years - although the scientists secretly hope for a much longer period.