Belgian telescope to travel to the sun


We still need to wait until October 2018 before the European Space Agency ESA launches the 'Solar Orbiter' satellite to the sun. But one important component is already ready: a telescope which will make high-resolution images of the star's atmosphere. The 'Extreme Ultraviolet Imager' (EUI), as the instrument is called, is made in Belgium.

The Centre Spatial de Liège (CSL) and the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB) have been developing the telescope for 10 years. The work was carried out in cooperation with Belgian industry and foreign partners. The EUI will make high-resolution images of the sun's atmosphere in extreme ultraviolet light. This is light with a very short wavelength which can only be seen from space, since it is absorbed in the Earth's atmosphere.

Among other things, scientists intend to unravel the mystery of coronal loops. These are large arcs of hot gas which flow along the sun's lines of magnetic field. These loops are highly dynamic and eruptions in the direction of Earth can result in disruption to GPS and electricity networks, as well as to radio communications. The telescope will also be able to make detailed images of the north and south poles of the sun for the first time.

The EUI is currently situated at the headquarters of Airbus in the English town of Stevenage. All the instruments of the Solar Orbiter are currently being assembled there. After the launch in 2018, we will still need to wait several years for the first images, given the huge distances the satellite needs to travel to get close enough to the sun. The Solar Orbiter will orbit the sun for a total of 7 years.