Solar Probe set to launch on mission to map sun’s poles

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Solar Probe set to launch on mission to map sun's poles

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – NASA and the European Space Agency are preparing to send a new probe towards the Sun to take an exclusive look at its burning poles, an unprecedented view that should help researchers understand how the vast bubble of Star energy affects Earth and humans in space.

Solar Orbiter is due to launch into space on top of an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday at 23:03. ET (0403 GMT Monday), deploying a series of solar panels and antennas before setting out on their 10-year journey in the sun.

Using the gravitational influence of Earth and Venus to move as close to 26 million miles from the Sun – or 95% of the distance between the star and Earth – the probe will map the star's poles, which could allow scientists to first instead observe the concentrated source of solar wind that permeates our solar system.

The solar wind is a soup of charged particles that are highly concentrated at the poles and radiate our solar system, affecting satellites and electronic devices on Earth.

Solar Orbiter carries ten instruments packaged behind an immense 147 kg heat shield, three of which examine tiny windows and face the sun to examine how their surface changes over time.

Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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