Exploring the Solar System

Exploring the Sun

What is the Ulysses spacecraft?

The Ulysses spacecraft was launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery on October 6, 1990, as a joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA. It was launched at an angle out of the ecliptic plane, toward the planet Jupiter. On February 8, 1992, it then used Jupiter’s gravity to slingshot completely out of the ecliptic plane and into polar orbit around the Sun. Until June 30, 2009, Ulysses studied the Sun and the solar system from vantage points that no other solar system object has ever achieved. Aside from gathering unique data about the Sun’s polar regions and about solar activity above and below the Sun’s poles, Ulysses has also been used to study comets like Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake, and it measured the surprising fact that the solar wind from one pole of the Sun is about 100,000 degrees hotter than that from the other pole!


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