Metis coronagraph first light


A simulated image of the Metis point of view, at a distance of 0.39 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun
A simulated image of the Metis point of view, at a distance of 0.39 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun

Yesterday has been a very positive day for the commissioning of the Metis coronagraph onboard the Solar Orbiter ESA mission. At present, the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is on its way toward the Sun; it is at 0.78 astronomical unit from the Sun and at 35 million km from the Earth. The next important step of its journey will be a Venus flyby needed to insert the spacecraft in its close orbit around the Sun.

For the first time, during a success full test of the UV channel of the Metis instrument, solar coronal images at the Hydrogen Ly-alpha wavelength have been acquired. Despite the COVID-19 worldwide emergency that has forced all the Metis team to work from home and thanks to the remote interaction with the ESA mission control center in Darmstadt, in Germany, the instrument has been operated in interactive mode.

Metis is the first solar coronagraph able to acquire images both in the visible and the UV range. Each of these imaging modes are fundamental to understand the physics of two primary components of the solar corona: electrons and hydrogen.

We would like to gratefully thank the ESOC team for the management of the spacecraft in this difficult period and the whole Metis operation team, and in particular the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen (Germany) that has provided both the Metis detectors proved to be perfectly functioning during the commissioning.

The commissioning is still on-going, the next very exciting step is the optimization of the alignment of the internal occulter, which will allow to acquire simultaneously images with the visible and UV channels of the instrument.

Cnr has been involved in the Metis instrument, the researchers of the Padova section of the Institute for Photonics and Nanotechnologies (Cnr-Ifn) have been participating in the design and realization of the instrument and are now giving their support to operation planning and image analysis related with the optical parts of the instrument.

Per informazioni:
Vania Da Deppo
Via Trasea 7, 35131 Padova