This figure shows the solar distance and latitude of Ulysses from launch in October 1990 until mid-1997.
There are several obvious "phases" to the orbit:
- In-ecliptic cruise
- From launch in October 1990 until February 1992, Ulysses travelled rapidly away from the Sun, approximately in the plane of the ecliptic. Solar activity during this time was high: this is obvious from the magnetic field magnitude plot for the mission.
- Slow traversal South
- In February 1992, Ulysses passed close to Jupiter, performing a gravity assist manoeuvre which transferred it into an eccentric polar solar orbit. Between this time and September 1994, Ulysses travelled progressively further South and closer to the Sun, reaching 80°S at around 2.4 AU from the Sun. Solar activity declined during this time.
- Fast latitude scan
- After reaching 80°S in September 1994, Ulysses moved very rapidly Northwards, through the ecliptic and back to 80°N in late 1996. This phase of the mission provided a rapid "snapshot" of the latitude dependence of the heliosphere at a relatively constant solar distance.
- Back to the ecliptic
- Ulysses is now travelling back towards the ecliptic, ready for another solar orbit over the next 5 years. You can find the current position of the spacecraft.
This figure may be freely copied and reproduced, for example as a transparency, but not published. Please contact us at Imperial College if you wish to use this data in a publication.
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Last changed 25th July 1997 by Tim Horbury.