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ULYSSES

 

My name is Bob and I work with a satellite called Ulysses.

 

 

Unlike SOHO, Ulysses does not take pictures of the Sun. Instead it has instruments to measure the Sun’s magnetic field and to detect the fast particles coming from the Sun, which form the solar wind.

 
     

Ulysses is a unique mission - it is the only spacecraft in a polar orbit around the Sun. This means that during its orbit it passes over both the north and south poles of the Sun.

 
 

Ulysses is helping us to understand, in three dimensions, how the Sun influences the whole of space around the Earth. It is showing us how very different the solar wind is over the poles of the Sun compared to around the equator.

 

Why the name Ulysses?


Ulysses is a character in a 13th century poem by the Italian poet Dante. A portrait of Dante is shown on the left.

In the poem, Ulysses set out to take a ship to explore the "uninhabited world beyond the Sun" and encouraged his crew to "follow after knowledge and excellence”.


Quite an appropriate name for a spacecraft exploring previously unknown parts of the solar system!

 

 

 

 
     
     

How did Ulysses get into its orbit?

 

Ulysses was launched on board the space shuttle Discovery on 6th October 1990.

     
     

It is very difficult to give a spacecraft enough energy to escape from the ecliptic plane (the plane in which the planets orbit the Sun). After launch, the spacecraft Ulysses first travelled to Jupiter, where the giant planet's gravity was used to accelerate the spacecraft into the orbit that would eventually bring it over the poles of the Sun.

     

The mission is a long one - it takes 6 years for Ulysses to go once round the Sun. Ulysses was over the south pole of the Sun in 1994 and over the north pole in 1995. The Sun was in a quiet phase then. Ulysses was back over the Sun’s poles again in 2000 and 2001. This time the Sun was very active.

     
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