Launch of Solar Orbiter with Swiss STIX instrument
On 10 February 2020
Solar Orbiter is a mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA) to observe our closest star, the Sun. The launch from Cape Canaveral, USA, is now foreseen on the morning of 10 February (CET). The Spectrometer / Telescope for Imaging X-rays (STIX) is one of the 10 instruments on board and was developed in Switzerland by the "Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz" (FHNW).
Solar Orbiter is designed to study the sun close up. The images and spectra STIX will make are at the very center of the flares, in the solar atmosphere. These explosions accelerate particles, on the one hand towards the surface oft he sun, and on the other hand towards interplanetary space. Flares therefore trigger coronal mass ejections, releasing huge amounts of energy and loaded particles into space. They are a risk for technological infrastructures in space and on Earth.
STIX has been developed at FHNW and delivered to the European Space Agency ESA in 2018 for integration into the spacecraft. The X-ray telescope consists of 64 grids mounted pairwise in front of 32 X-ray detectors which are located on the electronics box and make up the spectrometer. X-ray radiation passes through the windows in the heat shield. It is subsequently filtered by the imager unit and finally detected by the detector box – in order to obtain images of the hottest regions of solar eruptions with temperatures of up to 40 million degrees Celsius.