NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft, which has been in operation for nearly 17 years, is set to pass between the sun and Earth on Saturday, marking its first-ever flyby of our planet. Launched on October 25, 2006, alongside its companion spacecraft STEREO-B, these dual spacecraft missions have been orbiting the sun, providing invaluable insights into our closest star.
One of the highlights of this mission came in 2011 when the STEREO spacecraft provided scientists with the first-ever stereoscopic view of the sun. However, in 2014, STEREO-B lost contact with mission control after a reset, leaving STEREO-A as the sole functioning spacecraft.
Now, as STEREO-A approaches Earth, it presents a unique opportunity for collaboration with other NASA missions situated near our planet. By combining views with other observatories, STEREO-A hopes to achieve a stereoscopic vision, enhancing our understanding of the sun.
During this Earth flyby, scientists plan to use STEREO-A to test a new theory regarding the structure of coronal loops. These loops, which are magnetic field lines that extend from the sun’s surface, play a crucial role in various solar phenomena. By investigating their structure, scientists hope to gain deeper insights into the dynamics of our star.
Additionally, STEREO-A will study Earth-directed coronal mass ejections, providing vital multipoint measurements. These ejections, massive eruptions of charged particles from the sun’s corona, can have significant impacts on our planet’s space weather. By closely observing these phenomena, scientists aim to better understand their behavior and predict potential space weather disturbances.
Furthermore, STEREO-A’s close proximity to Earth during this phase of the solar cycle is expected to offer valuable knowledge about the sun’s activities. As the solar cycle reaches its peak, and the sun exhibits increased levels of activity, STEREO-A’s observations will be crucial in enhancing our understanding of solar dynamics.
In conclusion, NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft is embarking on its first-ever flyby of Earth, presenting a unique opportunity for collaboration with other NASA missions. Through the combined efforts of multiple observatories, scientists hope to gain new understandings of the sun’s structure, study coronal loops, and investigate Earth-directed coronal mass ejections. This event is expected to provide valuable knowledge about the sun’s activities during this phase of the solar cycle.