Solar Orbiter probe makes its first Venus flyby

It will collect valuable data on its way to the Sun.

ESA/ATG medialab

The ESA-NASA Solar Orbiter probe is quite busy on its way to the Sun. notes the spacecraft has completed its first flyby of Venus, collecting info about the hellish planet as it swung by around 7:39AM Eastern. There won’t be photos when telescopes are focused on the main mission, but the Solar Orbiter gathered magnetometer, particle, plasma and radio data that could provide insights into how Venus interacts with solar winds.

Scientists expect to take a few days before they can analyze the results and see if there are any discoveries. Just don’t expect major surprises — this isn’t a Venus-oriented ship, and the 4,700-mile distance limited what Solar Orbiter could study.

Even so, it’s an important milestone. This is Solar Orbiter’s first flyby, and one of its first opportunities to obtain data as part of its seven-year mission. Think of this as the probe getting to work in earnest.