Cluster commences operations: first exciting results to be announced at media event in Paris
07 February 2001Six months after four Cluster spacecraft congregated in Earth orbit, scientists are beginning to gather the first scientific results from ESA's unique mission to explore the magnetosphere - the magnetic shield that surrounds our planet.
To mark the beginning of Cluster's operational phase, members of the media are invited to attend a special press event at ESA Headquarters on 16 February 2001.
During the meeting, representatives of the ESA Science Directorate, the project and the science teams will summarise Cluster's quest to investigate the Sun-Earth connection, describe the current status of this unique mission and present some of the exciting results that have already been obtained from the mini-flotilla.
Following two successful launches last summer, the Cluster quartet have recently completed a highly complex check-out which involved 105 separate spacecraft manoeuvres; an all-time record. After deployment of 16 45-metre-long wire booms and in-orbit testing of 44 scientific instruments (two more world records), the commissioning phase is now completed and scientists are beginning to see the fruits of their labour.
During the next two years, Cluster will join ESA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft in exploring the interaction between Earth's magnetic field and the electrically charged particles swept along in the solar wind.
This will be a particularly hectic and exciting period, since it coincides with the peak of the 11-year cycle of solar activity. At such times, explosive solar flares and coronal mass ejections buffet our planet, with the potential of causing widespread power cuts, disrupting radio and satellite communications and generating colourful auroral displays.
By flying in tetrahedral formation, the Cluster quartet will provide the most detailed information ever obtained about the physical processes that take place as swarms of energetic particles invade near-Earth space. For the first time, scientists will be able to study in three dimensions the rapidly unfolding events taking place between 19 000 and 119 000 kilometres above our heads.
For more information, please contact:
ESA - Communication Department
Tel: +33 (0)188.8.131.52.55
Further information on Cluster and the ESA Science Programme can be found on the Worldwide Web at: http://sci.esa.int/cluster