Solar Orbiter is a mission to explore the nearest star, our Sun. Launched in February 2020
it carries a complex payload of ten scientific instruments on an orbit that takes it closer to
the Sun than Mercury. From there we can study the Sun's surface and atmosphere in
unprecedented detail, as well as measure the particles and magnetic fields that flow from it
to form the solar wind. I will talk through some of the recent results from this exciting
mission and show how, in tandem with a NASA mission called the Parker Solar Probe, we
are finally discovering how the Sun heats its atmosphere and accelerates the solar wind to
millions of kilometres per hour.
Tim Horbury is a Professor of Physics at Imperial College London with scientific interests
in space plasma physics, including turbulence, shock waves and the solar wind. Imperial
College has a long history of building scientific instruments for spacecraft: Imperial-built
hardware has visited Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and a comet and has even landed
on Mars. Prof. Horbury leads the magnetic field instrument on the Solar Orbiter mission, as
well as for the upcoming NASA missions IMAP (launching in 2025) and HelioSwarm
(launching in 2028).