ALERT! ESA Solar Orbiter spacecraft HIT by Coronal Mass Ejection from the Sun

ESA’s Solar Orbiter was hit by a recent Coronal Mass Ejection which erupted from the surface of the Sun. Here’s what ESA said regarding the incident.

| Updated on: Sep 06 2022, 19:50 IST
Earth has craters just like the Moon! Here is what NASA says
Solar Orbiter
1/5 Other than the Moon and our Solar System, Earth too has been hit by several asteroids and other objects creating craters on its surface. But it needs to be noted that not every object heading towards Earth reaches its ground mainly because of the atmospheric layers. Here are some of the biggest craters impact that dented the surface of the Earth. (Google Earth)
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2/5 What is an impact crater? According to the information provided by Space Place, NASA, "An impact crater is formed when an object like an asteroid or meteorite crashes into the surface of a larger solid object like a planet or a moon. To form a true impact crater, this object needs to be traveling extremely fast—many thousands of miles per hour! When a solid object crashes into something at these super fast speeds, it forms a crater regardless of how hard or tough it is." (Pixabay)
Solar Orbiter
3/5 Evidence of really big impacts – such as Arizona’s Meteor Crater – is harder to find on Earth. The impact history of our home world has largely been erased by weather and water or buried under lava, rock, or ice. Nonetheless, we still find new giant craters occasionally, NASA said. In 2019, a NASA glaciologist discovered a possible impact crater buried under more than a mile of ice in northwest Greenland. That followed the finding, announced in November 2018, of a 19-mile-wide crater beneath Hiawatha Glacier – the first meteorite impact crater ever discovered under Earth’s ice sheets. Though these impact sites in northwest Greenland are only 114 miles apart, at present they do not appear to have formed at the same time. (Pixabay)
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4/5 Meteor Crater (also known as Barringer Crater) in Arizona was the first crater discovered to be formed by an extraterrestrial impact. It formed 50,000 years ago from a meteorite that may have been up to about 150 feet wide traveling more than 28,000 mph, according to the information provided by NASA. (National Map Seamless Server (USGS))
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5/5 Vredefort crater in South Africa is the largest known impact crater on Earth—almost 200 miles across. At over 2 billion years old, it is also one of the oldest. Because of erosion over this long time period, the crater is a bit difficult to see. (NASA)
Solar Orbiter
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Huge Coronal Mass Ejection from the Sun hit ESA’s Solar Orbiter on September 4. (NASA)

Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) have been a frequent occurrence these past few days with nearly 32 CMEs erupting from the surface of the Sun in the last week alone. Our Sun is nearing its peak in its 11-year solar cycle which has resulted in increasing solar activity these past few months. As the Sun enters the peak of the solar cycle around 2025, solar activity is expected to further increase substantially.

A recent CME which erupted from the surface of the Sun hit the European Space Agency's (ESA) Solar Orbiter which flew by Venus for a gravity-assist manoeuvre in the early hours of September 4. According to ESA, as the orbiter got close to the Sun to complete the manoeuvre, a massive CME shot up from the Sun and hit the orbiter.

ESA has designed the orbiter to withstand such natural phenomena and therefore the CME did not cause any substantial damage to the Solar Orbiter. Its Venus flyby was planned to take advantage of the planet's gravitational pull to complete the gravity-assist manoeuvre.

Jose-Luis Pellon-Bailon, Solar Orbiter Operations Manager said in the ESA blog, “The close approach went exactly to plan, thanks to a great deal of planning from our colleagues in Flight Dynamics and the diligent care of the Flight Control Team.”

“By trading ‘orbital energy' with Venus, Solar Orbiter has used the planet's gravity to change its orbit without the need for masses of expensive fuel. When it returns to the Sun, the spacecraft's closest approach will be about 4.5 million km closer than before,” he added further.

Solar Orbiter Mission

According to ESA, the Solar Orbiter mission is conceived to perform a close-up study of our Sun and inner heliosphere - the uncharted innermost regions of our Solar System - to better understand, and even predict, the unruly behaviour of the star on which our lives depend.

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First Published Date: 06 Sep, 19:50 IST
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