Ulysses, Fifteen Years And Going Strong

Oct 08, 2005

Fifteen years after its launch, the grand ESA/NASA Ulysses space mission is still going strong, orbiting the Sun and continuing to tell exciting stories about our nearest star.
Carried into space on 6 October 1990 by the Space Shuttle Discovery, the European-built Ulysses spacecraft has already travelled an amazing seven thousand million kilometres.

During this voyage of exploration, Ulysses has literally opened new windows on the heliosphere, that vast region of space carved out by the Sun, which expands well beyond the limits of the Solar System itself.

Pacing itself over six-year long orbits, Ulysses is the first spacecraft to be placed in a polar orbit around the Sun.

From this unique 'out-of-the-ecliptic' vantage point, covering all solar latitudes, Ulysses is studying in situ previously unexplored regions of space, such as those above the Sun's poles.

Ulysses carries a set of sophisticated scientific instruments, several of which are of a type that had never flown in space before.

These have enabled scientists to make many ground-breaking discoveries, some in areas that were not even imagined when this visionary solar mission was first planned in the 1970s.

Ulysses is providing the first four-dimensional survey (three spatial dimensions and time) of the 'solar wind', the constant flow of charged particles ejected by the Sun and filling the whole of space around us.

Thanks to these data, scientists could not only deduce unique information about the source of the solar wind, but also they could learn about the Solar System environment itself.

For example, Ulysses is providing new and exciting insights into phenomena such as the way the Sun's magnetic field reverses polarity. It is exploring the nature of cosmic rays, the boundary of the heliosphere and the interstellar medium, and even the constraints on fundamental cosmological concepts like the evolution of matter in the Universe.

In February 2004, ESA's Science Programme Committee approved the Ulysses mission extension until March 2008. With this, Ulysses will be the only mission to observe the heliosphere in three dimensions over a large fraction of the Sun's 22-year magnetic cycle.

Happy birthday, Ulysses!

Copyright 2005 by Space Daily, Distributed United Press International

Explore further: Heavy metal frost? A new look at a Venusian mystery

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The latest observations of interstellar particles

Sep 18, 2014

With all the news about Voyager 1 leaving the heliosphere and entering interstellar space you might think that the probe is the first spacecraft to detect interstellar particles. That isn't entirely true, ...

Scientists bid adieu to plucky solar probe

Jun 30, 2009

US and European scientists were Tuesday bidding farewell to the tenacious solar probe Ulysses which has been recording data around the sun for more than 18 years, four times longer than planned.

Looking back at the Jupiter crash 20 years later

Jul 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Twenty years ago, human and robotic eyes observed the first recorded impact between cosmic bodies in the solar system, as fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into the atmosphere of Jupiter.

Recommended for you

Big black holes can block new stars

31 minutes ago

Massive black holes spewing out radio-frequency-emitting particles at near-light speed can block formation of new stars in aging galaxies, a study has found.

MAVEN studies passing comet and its effects

40 minutes ago

NASA's newest orbiter at Mars, MAVEN, took precautions to avoid harm from a dust-spewing comet that flew near Mars today and is studying the flyby's effects on the Red Planet's atmosphere.

POLARBEAR seeks cosmic answers in microwave polarization

41 minutes ago

An international team of physicists has measured a subtle characteristic in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation that will allow them to map the large-scale structure of the universe, ...

How to safely enjoy the October 23 partial solar eclipse

51 minutes ago

2014 – a year rich in eclipses. The Moon dutifully slid into Earth's shadow in April and October gifting us with two total lunars. Now it's the Sun's turn. This Thursday October 23 skywatchers across much ...

How to grip an asteroid

1 hour ago

For someone like Edward Fouad, a junior at Caltech who has always been interested in robotics and mechanical engineering, it was an ideal project: help develop robotic technology that could one day fly on ...

New radio telescope ready to probe

3 hours ago

Whirring back and forth on a turning turret, the white, 40-foot dish evokes the aura of movies such as "Golden Eye" or "Contact," but the University of Arizona team of scientists and engineers that commissioned ...

User comments : 0