Europe’s Solar Orbiter will fly by Earth tonight. Here’s how to spot it in the night sky.

The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft flies over the earth tonight (November 26th) and could be visible from parts of the United States and West Africa with either simple binoculars or an amateur telescope.

The spacecraft, which must fly through areas of the earth’s orbit with the highest concentration of space debris, will come up to 460 kilometers from the surface of the earth during the flyby. This maneuver will use gravity to nudge the spacecraft and bend its orbit closer to the sun so it can begin its scientific mission.

The next pass will be observed from West Africa tonight at around 11:30 p.m. EST (0430 GMT, Nov. 27). Solar Orbiter will then fly over the Canary Islands and the Atlantic as it moves further away from the surface of the earth. The probe will be visible from the southern United States on Saturday, November 27, from midnight to 3 a.m. EST, according to Unistellar. a US-based manufacturer of amateur space telescopes.

Related: The Solar Orbiter spacecraft sends a postcard from Venus in the flyby video

Solar Orbiter’s ground controllers carefully calculate the trajectory of the spacecraft and its possible intersections with known pieces of space junk. (Image credit: ESA)

The company issued a statement calling on amateur astronomers to use their telescopes to track Solar Orbiters as they fly by to “help ESA confirm the Solar Orbiter’s position, determine its brightness, and check the health of the spacecraft” .

The spaceship will be too weak to be visible to the naked eye during the flyby, ESA said on Twitter, and its speed could make tracking with telescopes a challenge. The solar researcher, who is to take the closest images of the star in the center of our solar system of all time, will zoom past the planet at an apparent speed of 0.3 degrees per second. This corresponds to a coverage of more than half the diameter of the moon in one second, announced the space agency on Twitter.

For more information on Solar Orbiter’s ground trail and where to find it in the sky tonight, visit the Heavens Above website.

This Earth flyby will give Solar Orbiter its final kick before it approaches the Sun in March next year. For the first time, Solar Orbiter will reach its target distance from the sun’s surface, approximately 50 million kilometers. No other spaceship with a camera has ever flown this close. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe dips closer to the sun, but the heat it is exposed to is too much to carry a sun-facing camera.

During its first approach to the Sun, located 77 million kilometers away in June 2020, Solar Orbiter detected miniature solar flares known as campfires on the solar surface. These bonfires could be behind one of the greatest mysteries of how the sun behaves, the extreme warming of its corona.

Follow Tereza Pultarova on Twitter @TerezaPultarova. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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