Helioseismology with Solar Orbiter

Björn Löptien, Aaron C. Birch, Laurent Gizon, Jesper Schou, Thierry Appourchaux, Julián Blanco Rodríguez, Paul S. Cally, Carlos Dominguez-Tagle, Achim Gandorfer, Frank Hill, Johann Hirzberger, Philip H. Scherrer, Sami K. Solanki

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The Solar Orbiter mission, to be launched in July 2017, will carry a suite of remote sensing and in-situ instruments, including the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI). PHI will deliver high-cadence images of the Sun in intensity and Doppler velocity suitable for carrying out novel helioseismic studies. The orbit of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft will reach a solar latitude of up to 21 (up to 34 by the end of the extended mission) and thus will enable the first local helioseismology studies of the polar regions. Here we consider an array of science objectives to be addressed by helioseismology within the baseline telemetry allocation (51 Gbit per orbit, current baseline) and within the science observing windows (baseline 3×10 days per orbit). A particularly important objective is the measurement of large-scale flows at high latitudes (rotation and meridional flow), which are largely unknown but play an important role in flux transport dynamos. For both helioseismology and feature tracking methods convection is a source of noise in the measurement of longitudinally averaged large-scale flows, which decreases as T−1/2 where T is the total duration of the observations. Therefore, the detection of small amplitude signals (e.g., meridional circulation, flows in the deep solar interior) requires long observation times. As an example, one hundred days of observations at lower spatial resolution would provide a noise level of about three m/s on the meridional flow at 80 latitude. Longer time-series are also needed to study temporal variations with the solar cycle. The full range of Earth-Sun-spacecraft angles provided by the orbit will enable helioseismology from two vantage points by combining PHI with another instrument: stereoscopic helioseismology will allow the study of the deep solar interior and a better understanding of the physics of solar oscillations in both quiet Sun and sunspots. We have used a model of the PHI instrument to study its performance for helioseismology applications. As input we used a 6 hr time-series of realistic solar magneto-convection simulation (Stagger code) and the SPINOR radiative transfer code to synthesize the observables. The simulated power spectra of solar oscillations show that the instrument is suitable for helioseismology. In particular, the specified point spread function, image jitter, and photon noise are no obstacle to a successful mission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-283
Number of pages33
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Helioseismology
  • Solar dynamo
  • Solar physics
  • Space missions: Solar Orbiter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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