Mission Science Goals

Solar Orbiter will explore the innermost heliosphere and unravel links between activity in the magnetic field-dominated regime of the solar corona and their consequences in the particle-dominated regime of the interplanetary medium.  These links will be revealed through analysis of observations of the Sun from a complement of powerful, high-resolution optical instruments, together with those from state-of-the-art instruments which sample, in situ, the properties, dynamics and interactions of plasma, fields and particles in the near-Sun heliosphere.  In addition, these plasma and field instruments have high temporal resolutions, and will thus resolve plasma kinetic processes in the solar wind at intrinsic scales.

Under the overarching question ‘How does the Sun create and control the Heliosphere?’, the Solar and Heliospheric community has identified 4 key questions that will be addressed with the observations that will be returned by Solar Orbiter:

Illustration of the proposed model for the polar hole origin of the fast solar wind by Tu & Marsch (2005)
Illustration of the model proposed for the polar hole origin of the fast solar wind by Tu & Marsch (2005)

Q1) How and where do the solar wind plasma and magnetic field originate in the corona? 

Q2) How do solar transients drive heliospheric variability?

Q3) How do solar eruptions produce energetic particle radiation that fills the heliosphere?

Q4) How does the solar dynamo work and drive connections between the Sun and the heliosphere?

Page last modified on 25 aug 11 11:04