Cypriot researcher flies close to the sun

3 mins read

A Cypriot researcher is part of the ESA/NASA space agencies Solar Orbiter mission team aiming to unlock the mysteries of the Sun and learn how its power affects planets.

Dr Georgios Nicolaou, member of the Cyprus Space Exploration Organisation (CSEO) talked to CNA about his role, as well as the importance of this mission, which will last around 10 years after launching from Cape Canaveral in Florida on 9 February.

“Solar Orbiter will take the measurements we need to understand important and fundamental mechanisms of the Sun, and how the Sun controls the heliosphere, the giant bubble that includes the entire solar system.”

Nicolaou said Solar Orbiter will approach the Sun and take photographs of its regions while analysing the Solar magnetic field and the material that is constantly flowing in space interacting with Earth and the planets in our solar system.

Dr Nicolaou has worked on several space missions by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

He said Solar Orbiter is the first mission to bring telescopes closer to the Sun than ever before and it will image the poles of the Sun for the first time.

“The proper analysis of the observations will help us to understand how the solar magnetic field is created, and how the solar material is heated, accelerated and flows within the interplanetary space.

The combination of the images and the particle measurements will help us to understand the basic mechanisms of the Solar activity.”

Solar Orbiter will acquire knowledge on how explosive regions on the Sun accelerate the energetic particles that flow in the Heliosphere.

“The Sun is an enormous source of energy that can impact our lives on Earth. Understanding its basic mechanisms and how it controls the region we live at, is without a doubt extremely important for humanity.”

Nicolaou joined the team of Solar Orbiter in 2017 when he started working at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

Since then, he has been working on the characterisation of the response of two plasma instruments onboard the spacecraft.

These instruments will measure and analyse the properties of the Solar Wind plasma which consist of Solar particles emitted constantly from the Sun and flowing outwards at high speeds.

“I have developed models to characterize the response of the instruments in expected conditions. These models will help the accurate analysis of future data.

I have also developed methods to derive important properties of the Solar Wind particles, which will help us to unlock the secrets of the Sun.”

Dr Nicolaou was born in Nicosia in 1985 and in 2005 began his studies in Physics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.

He did his PhD studies at the University of San Antonio, Texas.

Since 2017, he is working as a post-doctoral researcher at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of University College London. (source CNA)