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The Sun is getting its due. Photo: NASA/SDO/AIA

The Sun is getting a long-overdue close-up thanks to a number of new missions designed to reveal the inner workings of our nearest star.

Why it matters: The mechanisms that govern the solar wind, the Sun's 11-year cycle and magnetic fields are still largely a mystery.

  • Understanding those behaviors is necessary for forecasting space weather — and protecting satellites in orbit and the power grid on Earth.

What's happening: The Solar Orbiter spacecraft — a joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency — launched Sunday night.

  • Once in place around the Sun, it will snap photos of the star's polar regions for the first time and give scientists a better understanding of its magnetic fields.

The big picture: The Solar Orbiter and two other recent Sun-centered missions are allowing scientists to study how space weather — like solar flares — is generated and spread across the solar system.

The bigger picture: Learning more about the Sun could also help researchers piece together how other sunlike stars act and whether those solar systems might harbor habitable planets.

  • "The only way we can really understand that complex relationship [between a star and its planets] is if we understand the one that we're directly affected by — the Sun and the Earth," NASA solar scientist Alex Young told Axios.

Details: The Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is studying the solar wind, picking apart the small particles not far from the Sun to understand how the star's atmosphere works.

  • The National Science Foundation's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is a microscope for the Sun, gathering detailed observations about the star's surface from Earth.
  • When the Parker Probe's and Solar Orbiter's orbits align, they'll be able to study the same stream of particles from the Sun at different points in space.
  • About 10 other spacecraft also continue to stare at the star from farther away, adding to those observations.

Yes, but: All this new data doesn't immediately translate into better predictions of space weather.

  • Current space weather models don't completely account for the behavior of the Sun's magnetic fields and the intricacies of how solar flares shoot from the star.
  • The data gathered by the new telescopes will be fed into those models, but it may take years to fully integrate the new information.

Go deeper: New telescope takes highest-resolution photo of the Sun's surface

Go deeper

In photos: St Vincent water supply running low as volcano eruptions continue

La Soufrière volcano erupting in Saint Vincent on April 9. Photo: Zen Punnett/AFP via Getty Images

Water is in short supply in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as La Soufrière volcano continues to explode, government spokesman Sehon Marshall told a local radio station Tuesday.

The big picture: Up to 20,000 people have been evacuated from the Caribbean island’s northern region since the volcano began erupting there last Friday, per AP. Over 3,000 evacuees are staying in more than 80 government shelters.

In photos: Twin Cities on edge after Daunte Wright shooting

Demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Daunte Wright face off with police near the Brooklyn Center police station in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, on April 13. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Law enforcement and protesters in the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Center clashed Tuesday night, after demonstrators again defied a night curfew to protest for a third night the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright.

The big picture: It followed two nights of protests and unrest over Wright's death Sunday. Outside the city's police headquarters, law enforcement used "heavy force," with tear gas and flashbangs, per the Star Tribune. Protesters threw objects including water bottles, hitting some officers on their helmets, the outlet notes.

Judge rules in favor of Black officer fired for stopping colleague's chokehold

Former Buffalo police officer Cariol Horne said she heard a handcuffed man say he couldn't breathe when a colleague placed him in a chokehold. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

A New York court on Tuesday reinstated the pension of former Buffalo police officer Cariol Horne, who was fired for intervening when a white colleague had a Black man in a chokehold during a 2006 arrest.

Driving the news: State Supreme Court Judge Dennis Ward noted in his ruling similar cases, like the death of George Floyd. Ward said the role of other officers at the scene in such instances had come under scrutiny, "particularly their complicity in failing to intervene to save the life of a person to whom such unreasonable physical force is being applied."