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Sun to set on Ulysses solar mission on July 1
Date:6/12/2008

the vast bubble in space carved out by the solar wind," said Ed Smith, NASA's Ulysses Project Scientist. "The heliosphere separates the solar neighbourhood from the interstellar medium. Over its long life, Ulysses redefined our knowledge of the heliosphere and went on to answer questions about our solar neighbourhood we did not know to ask."

Ulysses was the first mission to survey the environment in space above and below the poles of the Sun in the four dimensions of space and time. It showed that the Sun's magnetic field is carried into the Solar System in a more complicated manner than previously believed. Particles expelled by the Sun from low latitudes can climb up to high latitudes and vice versa, even unexpectedly finding their way down to planets.

This is very important as regions of the Sun not previously considered as possible sources of hazardous particles for astronauts and satellites must now be taken into account and carefully monitored.

Ulysses detected and studied dust flowing into our Solar System from deep space and showed that it was 30 times more abundant than astronomers suspected. Perhaps most remarkably, the spacecraft detected helium atoms from deep space and confirmed that the Universe does not contain enough matter to eventually halt its expansion.

Hurtling through space at an average speed of 56 000 km/h, Ulysses has logged over 8.6 thousand million kilometres. The longevity of the mission is testament to a creative team of engineers who have risen to every challenge. As the power supply has weakened over the years, so they have come up with ingenious ways of conserving energy. Now, however, the power has dwindled to the point where fuel will soon freeze in the spacecraft's pipelines.

"When the last bits of data finally arrive, it will surely be tough to say goodbye to Ulysses," said Nigel Angold, ESA's Ulysses Mission Operations Manager. "But any sadness I might feel will pale in comparison t
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Contact: ESA Media Relations Office
media@esa.int
33-153-697-155
European Space Agency
Source:Eurekalert

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