A Solar orbiter spacecraft jointly developed by the US and European Space Agency has successfully completed its first Venus flyby. It is one of many flybys assisted by the planet’s gravity. The spacecraft will make a close approach to Sun and study it from high-latitudes. It will provide images of the uncharted polar regions. With the completion of the latest flyby, the probe has tilted its orbit. It will provide the spacecraft to observe the Sun from different perspectives. The spacecraft made a close approach to Venus at 12:39 Coordinated Universal Time on December 27. The spacecraft was jointly launched by NASA and the ESA in February 2020.
The two space agencies have selected the Solar Orbiter’s path around the Sun in resonance with Venus. The ESA said that the spacecraft will return to Venus’ vicinity every few orbits. It will use the gravity of Venus to alter its orbit every time. Its next encounter with Venus will take place in August 2021. The spacecraft’s each encounter with the planet will boost its orbital inclination. As per the prediction, it will make the first solar pass by 2025. The spacecraft’s inclination will be at 17 degrees when it passes the Sun. It will then increase to 33 degrees by 2029. The greater inclination will bring the probe closer to the polar regions. It will offer a direct view.
According to the ESA, this will be the first time when a spacecraft will click pictures of the Sun’s polar regions. A detailed study of the pictures transmitted by the spacecraft will be crucial in understanding how the Sun works. The agency said that it wants to investigate the Sun-Earth connection and expects that the data will help clear the concept. It also said that the success of the probe will let scientists predict more accurately the periods of space weather. Meanwhile, scientists expect that the Solar Orbiter will make some observations about Venus as well. They are hopeful that it will bring some unprecedented data related to the planet and of course the Sun.