Rice expert available to discuss ESA Solar Orbiter

Jeff Falk

Jade Boyd

Rice expert available to discuss ESA Solar Orbiter

Physicist David Alexander can discuss importance of mission set to launch Feb. 9

HOUSTON — (Feb. 4, 2020) — Rice University solar physicist David Alexander is available to discuss the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter, which is scheduled to launch on Sunday.

David Alexander

David Alexander (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Solar Orbiter, an international collaboration between the European Space Agency and NASA, will study the sun with 10 scientific instruments protected by a heatshield capable of enduring temperatures of more than 930 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius).

Alexander, a professor of physics and astronomy and the director of the Rice Space Institute, has studied the sun for more than two decades and is an award-winning science communicator and author of the book, “The Sun,” a solar science overview for general audiences and students.

“Solar Orbiter is designed to explore the source and dynamics of the sun’s energetic activity with tools that can help us better understand its influence on our planet and the rest of the solar system,” he said.

The probe’s instruments will support research in four main areas: magnetic field, solar wind, space weather and the nature of the solar polar regions.

“The spacecraft will approach the sun at a distance comparable to the orbit of Mercury and its inclined orbit will allow us to image the solar polar regions for the first time,” Alexander said. “Ideally, Solar Orbiter will help us answer some big questions, like, ‘What drives the solar wind?’ ‘How is magnetic field generated inside the sun?’ and ‘How does this magnetic field influence space weather?'”

The launch is scheduled for Feb. 9 at 11:03 p.m. U.S. Eastern Standard Time (10:03 p.m. CST) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Rice University has a VideoLink ReadyCam TV interview studio. ReadyCam is capable of transmitting broadcast-quality high-definition and standard-definition video directly to all news media organizations around the world 24/7.

To schedule an interview with Alexander, contact Jeff Falk, director of national media relations at Rice, at jfalk@rice.edu or 713-348-6775.


Image for download:

CAPTION: David Alexander (Photo courtesy of Rice University)

This release can be found online at news.rice.edu.

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About Jade Boyd

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.