The Sun has been seen in unprecedented detail thanks to the latest images from Solar Orbiter.
The photos were taken on March 7 when the UK-built spacecraft passed directly between Earth and the Sun.
One of the images, taken by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI), is the highest resolution image of the Sun’s full disk and outer atmosphere, the corona, ever taken.
This is an exciting landmark for Solar Orbiter, which is now even closer to the sun than Mercury and captures breathtaking images and data of the solar atmosphere.
Caroline Harper, UK Space Agency
Another image, taken by the Spectral Coronal Environment Imaging Instrument (Spice), represents the first such comprehensive image of the Sun in 50 years, and the best ever taken, the European Space Agency said ( ESA).
Such detailed observations mean that scientists will be able to examine what is behind powerful flares on the star’s surface and their impact on space weather.
Caroline Harper, Head of Space Science at the UK Space Agency, said: “This is an exciting landmark for Solar Orbiter, which is now even closer to the Sun than Mercury and is capturing breathtaking images and data. breath on the solar atmosphere.
“Observing the Sun in such detail will allow scientists to find the origins of powerful flares and other events on the Sun’s surface and in its atmosphere, to better understand how they contribute to space weather.
“The UK played a leading role in the design and construction of Solar Orbiter and in the development of the scientific instruments capturing these high definition images and data.
“We look forward to many more exciting moments as the spacecraft continues to pass the Sun over the next few years and orient itself to observe the poles of our star for the very first time.”
The images were taken while Solar Orbiter was at a distance of about 75 million kilometers, halfway between Earth and the star.
The full image taken by EUI took over four hours to capture, as it had to stitch together multiple images from different parts of the Sun, and has a resolution 10 times better than what a 4K TV screen can display.
At the two o’clock and eight o’clock positions on the edges of the Sun, dark filaments can be seen projecting away from the surface.
These are likely to erupt, throwing massive amounts of coronal gas into space and creating space weather storms, experts say.
In the Spice image sequence, violet corresponds to hydrogen gas at a temperature of 10,000C, blue to carbon at 32,000C, green to oxygen at 320,000C, yellow to neon at 630,000C.
This will allow solar physicists to study one of the most puzzling observations on the Sun, how the temperature increases through the rising layers.
Usually the temperature drops as you move away from a hot object, but above the Sun the corona reaches a million C while the surface is only around 5000C.
Investigating this mystery is one of the main scientific goals of Solar Orbiter which was launched in February 2020.