The Solar Orbiter is an ESA mission for the observation of the Sun with high spatial resolution and for in-situ measurements of the heliosphere very close to the Sun. The Orbiter approaches the Sun in an eccentric orbit as close as 45 solar radii, where no other space probe has been before. Beside that SOlarOrbiter will for the first time allow to investigate directly the Solar polar region.
The instrumentation is divided into an in-situ and a remote sensing package, whereby the participation of the Kiepenheuer Institute will concentrate on the latter. This consists of a magnetofiltergraph in the visible light (Visible light Imaging Magentograph VIM) for the investigation of the photosphere, as well as an EUV spectrograph and filtergraph for investigating the corona. The current payload definition envisions a spatial resolution in the visible and in the UV of 150km (75km pixel size) on the Sun at perihelion.
The exact specifications for the instruments have not yet been established.
The mission is essentially divided into two phases. In the first phase, during the initial orbits, the orbital speed of the space probe in the perihelion will roughly correspond to that of the Sun's rotation so that the probe will "hover" over the same area on the Sun for roughly ten days. As a result, it will be possible for the first time to follow a structure or a process, e.g., the development of the magnetic field of a sunspot from the same angle over a long period. In addition, during this phase particles originating from the source region being observed will be registered with the in-situ instruments.
In the second phase of the mission increasingly higher heliographic latitudes of up to almost 40° will be reached. This permits a detailed view of the magnetic field structure in the photosphere at the poles of the Sun. For the first time, it will be possible to investigate directly the fast solar wind out of the polar coronal holes in the EUV range.
The official ESA project web page is located at sci.esa.int/home/solarorbiter/
According to current planning, the start of the Solar Orbiter will take place around 2015. An Announcement of Opportunity is expected for 2007/8. After that, the maximum payload will be definitely fixed.
Participation of KIS:
Together with the Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung (MPS) and the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC), the Kiepenheuer Institute has worked out a feasibility study for VIM that became the baseline for the instrument payload definition. Within a European consortium under the lead of the MPS, the Kiepenheuer-Institut plans to contribute the Image Stabilization System ISS for VIM and is currently preparing a proposal for this Instrument.
The web page of the VIM consortium is located at www.mps.mpg.de/projects/solar-orbiter/vim/
Beside the instrumental contribution scientist from the institute will actively participate in the analysis of the data.