For Solar Orbiter’s SoloHI, this was the first coronal mass ejection seen by the instrument. Photo: ESA

Space mission images its first coronal mass ejections

Space mission Solar Orbiter’s SoloHI instrument captures its first coronal mass ejection, which are important drivers of space weather.

Aditi Bhatnagar is a Doctoral Research Fellow at RoCS. Photo: UiO

By a happy coincidence, three of Solar Orbiter’s remote sensing instruments captured a pair of coronal mass ejections in a close approach to the Sun earlier this year. At the same time as the close solar pass, the spacecraft was ‘behind’ the Sun as viewed from Earth.
RoCS – Rosseland Centre for Solar Physics, UiO contributes in the space mission that makes it possible.

The Solar Orbiter carries a wide range of instruments. The Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI), the Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) and the Metis coronagraph captured different aspects of two ejections that erupted over the course of the day. For Solar Orbiter’s SoloHI, this was the first coronal mass ejection seen by the instrument. The CMEs were also seen by ESA’s Proba-2 and the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) from the ‘front’ side of the Sun, providing a global view of the events.

Space weather

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are eruptions of particles from the solar atmosphere that blast out into the Solar System. CMEs have the potential to trigger space weather disturbances at the Earth.
They can be potentially harmful to unprotected astronauts during space-walks and can also cause malfunctions in some technology. Studying CMEs is just one aspect of Solar Orbiter’s mission. The space mission will also return unprecedented close-up observations of the Sun and from high-latitudes. Providing the first images of the uncharted polar regions of the Sun. Together with solar wind and magnetic field measurements in the vicinity of the spacecraft, the mission will provide new insight into how our parent star works in terms of the 11-year solar cycle, and how we can better predict periods of stormy space weather.

Cruise phase checkouts

Solar Orbiter
is a collaboration between ESA and NASA. It was launched on 10th February 2020 and is currently in a cruise period ahead of the main science mission, which begins November this year. It has ten instruments onboard, six of which are remote sensing telescopes while four are instruments to process information on site. The Rosseland Centre for Solar Physics (RoCS) at the University of Oslo is responsible for the computer programs that convert the raw binary data from the remote-sensing instrument SPICE to a format that can be analysed by scientists.