Ulysses has forever changed the way scientists view the Sun and its effect on the surrounding space. The mission’s major results and the legacy it leaves behind have been presented today at ESA Headquarters in Paris.
"Over almost two decades of science observations by Ulysses, we have learned a lot more than we expected about our star and the way it interacts with the space surrounding it," said Richard Marsden, ESA’s Ulysses Project Scientist and Mission Manager. "There will never be another mission like Ulysses,” he continued.
“Many solar missions have appeared on the space scene in recent years, but Ulysses is still unique today. Its special point of view over the Sun's poles has never been covered by any later mission, making Ulysses’s pioneering character still valid. This legendary spacecraft has served us extraordinarily well and it has certainly lived up to its mythical namesake's reputation.”
"Ulysses has been a challenging mission since launch," said Ed Massey, Ulysses Project Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California, USA. "Its success required the cooperation and the intellect of engineers and scientists from around the world. The diversity of our team was one of its greatest strengths."
That strength and diversity spilled over into the Ulysses spacecraft itself. The spacecraft and its suite of 10 instruments had to be highly sensitive yet robust enough to withstand some of the most extreme conditions in the Solar System, including two polar passes of the giant planet Jupiter.
“The main objective of Ulysses was to study, from every angle, the heliosphere, the vast bubble in space carved out by the solar wind,” said Ed Smith, NASA’s Ulysses Project Scientist. “The heliosphere separates the solar neighbourhood from the interstellar medium. Over its long life, Ulysses redefined our knowledge of the heliosphere and went on to answer questions about our solar neighbourhood we did not know to ask."
Ulysses was the first mission to survey the environment in space above and below the poles of the Sun in the four dimensions of space and time. It showed that the Sun’s magnetic field is carried into the Solar System in a more complicated manner than previously believed. Particles expelled by the Sun from low latitudes can climb up to high latitudes and vice versa, even unexpectedly finding their way down to planets.
This is very important as regions of the Sun not previously considered as possible sources of hazardous particles for astronauts and satellites must now be taken into account and carefully monitored.
Ulysses detected and studied dust flowing into our Solar System from deep space and showed that it was 30 times more abundant than astronomers suspected. Perhaps most remarkably, the spacecraft detected helium atoms from deep space and confirmed that the Universe does not contain enough matter to eventually halt its expansion.
Hurtling through space at an average speed of 56 000 km/h, Ulysses has logged over 8.6 thousand million kilometres. The longevity of the mission is testament to a creative team of engineers who have risen to every challenge. As the power supply has weakened over the years, so they have come up with ingenious ways of conserving energy. Now, however, the power has dwindled to the point where fuel will soon freeze in the spacecraft’s pipelines.
"When the last bits of data finally arrive, it will surely be tough to say goodbye to Ulysses," said Nigel Angold, ESA’s Ulysses Mission Operations Manager. "But any sadness I might feel will pale in comparison to the pride of working on such a magnificent mission. Although operations will be ending, scientific discoveries from Ulysses data will continue for years to come."
“It is with enormous affection that we bid farewell to Ulysses. It has been a story of remarkable success and collaboration,” added David Southwood, ESA’s Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.
ESA Media Relations Office | alfa
Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State
What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy