Solar Orbiter top science questions: #2 How do solar transients drive heliospheric variability?
The Sun exhibits transient phenomena, such as flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs), eruptive prominences, and shock waves. These events affect the structure and dynamics of the outflowing solar wind and so eventually affect Earth’s magnetosphere and upper atmosphere, creating what is known as 'space weather'.
There are fundamental questions to be answered about these transient events and how they develop if in the future we are to attempt to predict such occurrences or their effects on geospace and the heliosphere. This will also help our understanding of other stars that exhibit transient behaviour such as flaring.
Operating close to the solar sources of transients, Solar Orbiter will be able to sample the fields and plasmas in their pristine state. This will allow Solar Orbiter both to determine the input to the heliosphere, and to measure the heliospheric consequences of eruptive events.