(ORDO NEWS) — European scientists have presented the first images of the Sun taken by the Solar Orbiter space probe. They were obtained on May 30, when the device was only 77 million kilometers from the surface of the star, twice as close to Earth’s orbit. It can be noted that the American probe Parker converges with the Sun much closer, up to 6.2 million kilometers, but it does not have a camera aimed at the star: it would not be able to work in such conditions. The Daniel K. Inouye telescope in Hawaii can take high-resolution images, but some of the light is inevitably absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere.
Unsurprisingly, the Solar Orbiter photographs immediately yielded an interesting find. “At first glance, the Sun seems calm, but if you look at the details, it turns out to be littered with miniature flares everywhere,” said one of the mission participants, Belgian astrophysicist David Berghmans. In fact, our star now continues to be at the minimum of its 11-year cycle of activity, and thousands of tiny flares can be seen in photographs, nicknamed “campfires.”
They resemble ordinary solar flares , only reduced in millions, or even billions of times. Nevertheless, there are so many of them that the overall effect of such “fires” on the surface of the Sun can be extremely serious. It is even possible that they contribute to one of the main mysteries of the star – the still unexplained extremely high temperature of the corona , which is orders of magnitude higher than the temperature in deeper layers. This assumption was already voiced several years ago.
It is worth saying that the “miniature” of these outbreaks should not deceive: the smallest of them are hundreds of kilometers across – “a typical European country”, as scientists noted. It is not known whether such “fires” are created by the same magnetic forces as full-scale, powerful solar flares, or whether they are associated with the work of some other mechanism. Perhaps Solar Orbiter will help to find out this too: a high-precision PHI instrument is working on board the device, which is already measuring magnetic fields in the solar corona.
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