A journey of exploration to the polar regions of a star : probing the solar poles and the heliosphere from high helio-latitude

Harra, Louise and Andretta, Vincenzo and Appourchaux, Thierry and Baudin, Frédéric and Bellot-Rubio, Luis and Birch, Aaron C. and Boumier, Patrick and Cameron, Robert H. and Carlsson, Matts and Corbard, Thierry and Davies, Jackie and Fazakerley, Andrew and Fineschi, Silvano and Finsterle, Wolfgang and Gizon, Laurent and Harrison, Richard and Hassler, Donald M. and Leibacher, John and Liewer, Paulett and Macdonald, Malcolm and Maksimovic, Milan and Murphy, Neil and Naletto, Giampiero and Nigro, Giuseppina and Owen, Christopher and Martínez-Pillet, Valentín and Rochus, Pierre and Romoli, Marco and Sekii, Takashi and Spadaro, Daniele and Veronig, Astrid and Schmutz, W. (2022) A journey of exploration to the polar regions of a star : probing the solar poles and the heliosphere from high helio-latitude. Experimental Astronomy, 54 (2-3). pp. 157-183. ISSN 0922-6435 (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10686-021-09769-x)

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A mission to view the solar poles from high helio-latitudes (above 60°) will build on the experience of Solar Orbiter as well as a long heritage of successful solar missions and instrumentation (e.g. SOHO Domingo et al. (Solar Phys. 162(1-2), 1–37 1995), STEREO Howard et al. (Space Sci. Rev. 136(1-4), 67–115 2008), Hinode Kosugi et al. (Solar Phys. 243(1), 3–17 2007), Pesnell et al. Solar Phys. 275(1–2), 3–15 2012), but will focus for the first time on the solar poles, enabling scientific investigations that cannot be done by any other mission. One of the major mysteries of the Sun is the solar cycle. The activity cycle of the Sun drives the structure and behaviour of the heliosphere and of course, the driver of space weather. In addition, solar activity and variability provides fluctuating input into the Earth climate models, and these same physical processes are applicable to stellar systems hosting exoplanets. One of the main obstructions to understanding the solar cycle, and hence all solar activity, is our current lack of understanding of the polar regions. In this White Paper, submitted to the European Space Agency in response to the Voyage 2050 call, we describe a mission concept that aims to address this fundamental issue. In parallel, we recognise that viewing the Sun from above the polar regions enables further scientific advantages, beyond those related to the solar cycle, such as unique and powerful studies of coronal mass ejection processes, from a global perspective, and studies of coronal structure and activity in polar regions. Not only will these provide important scientific advances for fundamental stellar physics research, they will feed into our understanding of impacts on the Earth and other planets’ space environment.