The European Space Agency–NASA Solar Orbiter was launched at the start of 2020 to study the Sun and its influence on the solar system. One of its instruments, Metis, has the ability to study the immediate surroundings of the Sun. Could Metis soon provide a new window into coronal mass ejections?
A coronal mass ejection as seen by two coronagraphs (orange: LASCO C2, blue: LASCO C3) on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory on February 27, 2000. [ESA & NASA/SOHO]
Mysterious Magnetic Fields Meet Their Match?
Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are massive releases of magnetized plasma from the Sun’s surface. They are highly energetic and move extremely fast, sometime at millions of miles per hour. CMEs likely originate from interactions within the Sun’s complex magnetic environment, but there still remains a lot to be learned about them.
To study magnetic fields in the Sun, we can use a tool called spectropolarimetry to examine the polarization of certain wavelengths of light. Polarization is key here: it is the measurement of these oscillations in electromagnetic waves that allow us actually probe magnetic fields. Until now, CMEs have never been studied in this way — but that might change very soon!
The Metis ...