(ORDO NEWS) — The orbiter, created by Airbus, got as close as possible to the Sun and took pictures of incredible detail. The probe, known as the Solar Orbiter, is operated by the European Space Agency (ESA).
The probe was launched in February 2020 and is now only 77 million kilometers from the Sun. Despite the fact that this may seem like a significant distance, the spacecraft was able to photograph the most detailed images of the Sun, complemented by the smallest details that scientists have never seen before.
One of these details is small flares, which are much smaller than the solar flares that everyone is already used to. According to ESA, these flares could be “nanoflays” – relatively small flares that the Solar Observatory will use to observe with the Spectral Coronal Imaging (SPICE) instrument.
David Long, Ph.D. (UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory), one of the principal investigators of the ESA Solar Orbiter Mission, shared his thoughts on this:
“Until now, there have been no images of the Sun so close, the level of detail is impressive. We see miniature flares on the sun’s surface that resemble bonfires. Moreover, they are millions of times smaller than the solar flares that we see from the Earth.”
“These small flares, scattered across the entire surface, could play an important role in a mysterious phenomenon called coronal heating, when the sun’s outer layer, or corona, is more than 200 to 500 times hotter than the underlying layers. We look forward to further research as our craft approaches the Sun and our home star becomes more active.”
Andrzej Fludra, PhD, Head of the SPICE Consortium for Instrumentation and one of the Principal Investigators of the Scientific and Technical Equipment Council (STFC) added:
“We are delighted to see the first spectra and images from SPICE. They promise to solve unresolved questions about the dynamic processes and composition of the solar atmosphere. Spectroscopy is a powerful tool for diagnosing fundamental processes in hot plasma. Each spectral line invites us to solve a piece of the puzzle – combining information from all lines reveals the amazing complexity of the atmosphere.”
By analyzing close-up images of the Sun, experts will be able to piece together information about the history of the solar system. In addition, scientists can better prepare for potentially damaging solar storms. Solar winds can heat the Earth’s outer atmosphere, causing it to expand.
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