Peter, H.; Ballester, E. Alsina; Andretta, V.; Auchère, F.; Belluzzi, L.; Bemporad, A.; Berghmans, D.; Buchlin, E.; Calcines, A.; Chitta, L. P. et al.
The magnetic activity of the Sun directly impacts the Earth and human life. Likewise, other stars will have an impact on the habitability of planets orbiting these host stars. Although the magnetic field at the surface of the Sun is reasonably well characterised by observations, the information on the magnetic field in the higher atmospheric layers is mainly indirect. This lack of information hampers our progress in understanding solar magnetic activity. Overcoming this limitation would allow us to address four paramount long-standing questions: (1) How does the magnetic field couple the different layers of the atmosphere, and how does it transport energy? (2) How does the magnetic field structure, drive and interact with the plasma in the chromosphere and upper atmosphere? (3) How does the magnetic field destabilise the outer solar atmosphere and thus affect the interplanetary environment? (4) How do magnetic processes accelerate particles to high energies? New ground-breaking observations are needed to address these science questions. We suggest a suite of three instruments that far exceed current capabilities in terms of spatial resolution, light-gathering power, and polarimetric performance: (a) A large-aperture UV-to-IR telescope of the 1-3 m class aimed mainly to measure the magnetic field in the chromosphere by combining high spatial resolution and high sensitivity. (b) An extreme-UV-to-IR coronagraph that is designed to measure the large-scale magnetic field in the corona with an aperture of about 40 cm. (c) An extreme-UV imaging polarimeter based on a 30 cm telescope that combines high throughput in the extreme UV with polarimetry to connect the magnetic measurements of the other two instruments. Placed in a near-Earth orbit, the data downlink would be maximised, while a location at L4 or L5 would provide stereoscopic observations of the Sun in combination with Earth-based observatories. This mission to measure the magnetic field will finally unlock the driver of the dynamics in the outer solar atmosphere and thereby will greatly advance our understanding of the Sun and the heliosphere.