Unlocking the Secrets of the Sun : Early Discoveries and Future Prospects of the Solar Orbiter Mission

Yannis Zouganelis (ESA)

The ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter mission was launched in 2020 and commenced its nominal science operations in 2022. So far, it has successfully completed three close encounters with the Sun, with the most recent one taking place in April 2023 at a distance of 0.29 au. The mission has yielded an abundance of unique data combining high-resolution imaging and spectroscopy of the Sun with detailed in-situ measurements of the surrounding heliosphere. Solar Orbiter enables us to study the Sun’s corona in an unprecedented level of detail, allowing us to determine the link between observed solar wind streams and their source regions on the Sun. Over the course of the ten-year mission, the highly elliptical orbit will progressively become more inclined to the ecliptic plane. Thanks to this new perspective, Solar Orbiter will deliver images and comprehensive data of the unexplored Sun’s polar regions and its far side. This presentation will offer an overview of the mission and summarise the science results obtained during the first three years in orbit. Furthermore, it will provide insight into future science opportunities, particularly in collaboration with other space- and ground-based observatories.