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Published on Jun 15, 2010
Launched on June 15, 2010, CNES's Picard microsatellite is designed to simultaneously measure parameters such as the Sun's speed of rotation, radiated power, sunspots, figure and diameter, in order to better understand its inner workings.
The mission also intends to investigate the relationship between variations in solar activity and climate change here on Earth.
And the microsatellite is expected to send back data needed to improve models used for forecasting solar activity.
The Picard mission was named after the French astronomer of the 17th century Jean Picard (1620-1682) who achieved the first accurate measurements of the solar diameter. These measurements are especially important as they were made during a period when the solar activity was minimum characterized by a sun nearly without sunspots between 1645 and 1710. This period was found by G. Spörer using sunspots observations gathered in Europe and this period is now named Maunder minimum. By comparison between the diameter during the Maunder minimum and the diameter when the sun was active, a variation has been found leading to the question still without answer "are diameter and activity linked". During this period in Europe, there was an unusually cold climate.