Solar Orbiter is a solar mission that will approach the Sun down to a minimum perihelion of 0.28 AU and will increase its orbit inclination with respect to the ecliptic up to a maximum angle of 34 deg. For imagers aboard Solar Orbiter there will be three 10-days remote sensing windows per orbit. Observations shall be carefully planned at least 6 months in advance. The Multi Instrument Sequence Organizer (MISO) is a web based platform developed by the SPICE group and made available to support Solar Orbiter instruments teams in planning observations by assembling Mission Database sequences. Metis is the UV and visible light coronagraph aboard Solar Orbiter. Metis is a complex instrument characterized by a rich variety of observing modes, which required a careful commissioning activity and will need support for potential maintenance operations throughout the mission. In order to support commissioning and maintenance activities, the Metis team developed a PDOR (Payload Direct Operation Request) and MDOR (Memory Direct Operation Request) module integrated in MISO and made available to all Solar Orbiter instruments. An effort was made in order to interpret the coding philosophy of the main project and to make the additional module as homogeneous as possible both to the web interface and to the algorithm logic, while integrating characteristics which are peculiar to PDORs and MDORs. An user friendly web based interface allows the operator to build the operation request and to successively modify or integrate it with further or alternative information. In the present work we describe the PDOR/MDOR module for MISO by addressing its logic and main characteristics.
Metis is the solar coronagraph of the ESA mission Solar Orbiter. For the first time, Metis will acquire simultaneous images of the solar corona in linearly polarized, broadband visible light (580-640 nm) and in the narrow-band HI Ly-α line (121.6 nm). The visible light path includes a polarimeter, designed to observe and analyse the K-corona linearly polarized by Thomson scattering. The polarimeter comprises a liquid crystal Polarization Modulation Package (PMP) together with a quarter-wave retarder and a linear polarizer. The Metis PMP consists of two Anti-Parallel Nematic Liquid Crystal Variable Retarders (LCVRs) with their fast axis parallel with respect to each other and a pre-tilted angle of the molecules in opposite direction. This configuration results in an instrumental wide field of view (±7°). The LCVRs provide an electro-optical modulation of the input polarized light by applying an electric field to the liquid crystal molecules inside the cells. A given optical retardance can be induced in the LCVRs by selecting a suitable voltage value. This paper reports the polarimetric characterization of the Visible-light channel for the Metis/Solar Orbiter coronagraph. The retardance-to-voltage calibration of the electro-optical polarimeter was characterized over the entire field of view of the coronagraph yielding a complete “polarimetric flat-field” of the Metis Visible-light channel.
The Solar Orbiter/Metis visible and UV solar coronagraph redefines the concept of external occultation in solar coronagraphy. Classical externally occulted coronagraphs are characterized by an occulter in front of the telescope entrance aperture. Solar Orbiter will approach the Sun down to 0.28 AU: in order to reduce the thermal load, the Metis design switches the positions of the entrance aperture and the external occulter thus achieving what is called the inverted external occultation. The inverted external occulter (IEO) consists of a circular aperture on the Solar Orbiter thermal shield that acts as coronagraph entrance pupil. A spherical mirror, located 800 mm behind the IEO, back rejects the disklight through the IEO itself. To pursue the goal of maximizing the reduction of the stray light level on the focal plane, an optimization of the IEO shape was implemented.
The stray light calibration was performed in a clean environment in front of the OPSys solar disk divergence simulator (at ALTEC, in Torino, Italy), which is able to emulate different heliocentric distances. Ground calibrations were a unique opportunity to map the Metis stray light level thanks to a pure solar disk simulator without the solar corona. The stray light calibration was limited to the visible light case, being the most stringent. This work is focused on the description of the laboratory facility that was used to perform the stray light calibration and on the calibration results.
The Metis coronagraph aboard the Solar Orbiter ESA spacecraft is expected to provide new insights into the solar dynamics. In detail, it is designed to address three main questions: the energy deposition mechanism at the poles (where the fast wind is originated), the source of the slow wind at lower altitude, and how the global corona evolves, in particular in relation to the huge plasma ejections that occasionally are produced. To obtain the required optical performance, not only the Metis optical design has been highly optimized, but the alignment procedure has also been subjected to an accurate evaluation in order to fulfill the integration specifications. The telescope assembling sequence has been constructed considering all the subsystems manufacturing, alignment and integration tolerances. The performance verification activity is an important milestone in the instrument characterization and the obtained results will assure the fulfillment of the science requirements for its operation in space.
The entire alignment and verification phase has been performed by the Metis team in collaboration with Thales Alenia Space Torino and took place in ALTEC (Turin) at the Optical Payload System Facility using the Space Optics Calibration Chamber infrastructure, a vacuum chamber especially built and tested for the alignment and calibration of the Metis coronagraph, and suitable for tests of future payloads.
The goal of the alignment, integration, verification and calibration processes is to measure the parameters of the telescope, and the characteristics of the two Metis channels: visible and ultraviolet. They work in parallel thanks to the peculiar optical layout. The focusing and alignment performance of the two channels must be well understood, and the results need to be easily compared to the requirements. For this, a dedicated illumination method, with both channels fed by the same source, has been developed; and a procedure to perform a simultaneous through focus analysis has been adopted.
In this paper the final optical performance achieved by Metis is reported and commented.
Metis is a solar coronagraph mounted on-board the Solar Orbiter ESA spacecraft. Solar Orbiter is scheduled for launch in February 2020 and it is dedicated to study the solar and heliospheric physics from a privileged close and inclined orbit around the Sun. Perihelion passages with a minimum distance of 0.28 AU are foreseen.
Metis features two channels to image the solar corona in two different spectral bands: in the HI Lyman ∝ at 121.6 nm, and in the polarized visible light band (580 – 640 nm). Metis is a solar coronagraph adopting an “inverted occulted” configuration. The inverted external occulter (IEO) is a circular aperture followed by a spherical mirror which back rejects the disk light. The reflected disk light exits the instrument through the IEO aperture itself, while the passing coronal light is collected by the Metis telescope. Common to both channels, the Gregorian on-axis telescope is centrally occulted and both the primary and the secondary mirror have annular shape.
Classic alignment methods adopted for on-axis telescope cannot be used, since the on-axis field is not available. A novel and ad hoc alignment set-up has been developed for the telescope alignment.
An auxiliary visible optical ground support equipment source has been conceived for the telescope alignment. It is made up by four collimated beams inclined and dimensioned to illuminate different sections of the annular primary mirror without being vignetted by other optical or mechanical elements of the instrument.