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Home > About us > Media > Archived news > 2021 > Solar Orbiter at Venus: first in-situ measurements of the “LFR”/RPW instrument

Solar Orbiter at Venus: first in-situ measurements of the “LFR”/RPW instrument

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On the 27th of December 2020, the “Solar Orbiter” spacecraft has succesfully completed its first flyby around Venus, allowing the satellite to get closer to the Sun. The Low Frequency Receiver (LFR), onboard the spacecraft had the opportunity to gather its first in-situ wave data from the environment of Venus!

Solar Orbiter is a solar mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA), with a NASA participation, that was launched on the 10th of February in 2020. It is currently in its cruise phase and gradually adjusting its orbit around the Sun. Its main goal is to study the properties and the dynamics of the upper atmosphere of the Sun and the solar wind (both composed of ionized gaz) that could have significant effects on the Earth’s environment. Furthermore it will allow to take images of the north and south poles of Sun and hence make unprecedented studies of these regions known to play important role in the solar eruptions and other heliospheric processes. In order to get closer to the Sun and have a better look at its polar regions, Solar Orbiter will use the gravity of Venus and Earth, by performing nine flybys until 2030, to change its speed and twist its trajectory. Among the 10 instruments onboard the spacecraft, LPP has delivered the “Low Frequency Receiver” (LFR, Lead-CoI : Thomas Chust), part of the Radio and Plasma Waves (RPW) consortium led by LESIA (PI: Milan Maksimovic). This onboard receiver will allow to analyse the electric and magnetic field fluctuations in order to characterise the nature of the electromagnetic waves and study their role in the plasma acceleration and heating proccesses in the solar wind.

On the 27th of December 2020, Solar Orbiter has perfomed its first gravity assistance at Venus at a distance of about 7500 km from the surface of the planet. LFR/RPW instrument has delivered its first measurements in the environment of Venus, by revealing very strong signatures of electromagnetic and high frequency electrostatic waves in the solar wind, the induced magnetosheath and magnetotail of Venus (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Solar Orbiter trajectory crossing the induced magnetosphere of Venus with the magnetic and electric field power spectral densities computed using LFR/RPW data.

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