“The Sun is our star; its heat and light power almost all life on Earth. It has a hot outer atmosphere which blows into space and past the Earth, where it can have damaging effects on satellites and many modern technological systems on which we rely. There is still much we do not understand about the formation and dynamics of the solar wind and over the next few years two spacecraft, one American and one European, will travel closer to the Sun than we have ever been before in order to explore the mechanisms by which the Sun affects interplanetary space. At Imperial College we have built one instrument, the magnetometer, that will fly on one of these spacecraft. I will talk about the key science questions behind the missions as well as some insight into the trials and tribulations of being involved in a space mission.”
Professor Timothy Horbury is the Principal Investigator of the Solar Orbiter magnetometer, as part of the Space and Atmospheric Physics group at Imperial College London.