Solar Orbiter Captures Dazzling Images of the Sun’s Chaotic Activity

Solar Orbiter captures dazzling images of the sun’s chaotic activity

We’re drooling over the latest image dump from the Solar Orbiter mission. These incredible images and video, captured during its close approach in March, highlight the awesome power of this probe to show us our host star in a whole new light.

Solar Orbiter made a close approach to the Sun – known as perihelion – on March 26. spaceship, spear in February 2020, is a joint project between ESA and NASA. He studies the Sun using a series of 10 devices, including the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, which took most of the images seen here. The mission of the orbiter is to help us understand the heliosphere by studying phenomena such as the solar wind and the magnetic field of the Sun.

March 2 solar flare

Gif: ESA and NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI and STIX teams

When two points on the Sun’s surface with a similar magnetic field connect, the Sun can release a huge burst of radiation into space. It’s called a Solar eruptionand Solar Orbiter took this view of March 2 using the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, which allows Orbiter to record plasma at incredibly high temperatures, and the X-Ray Spectrometer/Telescope, which measures high-energy X-rays emitted by the Sun during a solar flare .

Magnetic activity

GIF: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI & PHI TeamsGIF: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI & PHI Teams

These two images are of the same place on the Sun and were taken on the 17th of March using the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager and the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager, consisting of two telescopes that monitor the Sun’s magnetic field. The Extreme Ultraviolet Imager took the yellow image (color added later), which shows the loops of magnetism reaching into the stellar atmosphere, capturing hot gas along the way. The black and white image is from the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager, where the two colors represent different areas of polarity.

March 21 solar flare

Gif: ESA and NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI and STIX teamsGif: ESA and NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI and STIX teams

On March 21st, Solar Orbiter’s Energetic Particle Detector noticed a shower of energy showering down on the probe as it approached the Sun. This GIF begins when the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager recorded ultraviolet light emitted into the Sun’s atmosphere, with a more pronounced disturbance appearing 10 minutes later. After another 10 minutes, the X-ray spectrometer/telescope began to detect emitted X-rays, which are displayed in red, and shortly thereafter, the instrument saw higher-energy X-rays, which are displayed in blue. The Sun continued to emit these X-rays for another 20 minutes.

The range of a solar flare

Images and data from March 25 show us how far a solar flare extends. The yellow images of the Sun were taken by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, showing a solar flare on the lower left side of the star. Zooming out shows data taken by Metis, which is a coronagraph or instrument capable of imaging the Sun’s outer atmosphere. You can see how the solar flare excites a region of the atmosphere in the bottom left of the video. Zooming in even further, data from Solar Orbiter’s heliospheric imager shows the gigantic scale of the coronal mass ejection as he shoots into space.

Approaching the perihelion

This time-lapse shows Solar Orbiter approaching its perihelion, or the point where it is closest to the Sun. The video begins with images taken on January 30 by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager and ends with a view of April 4, a week after perihelion. This causes the Sun to briefly grow and shrink in the video as the satellite approaches and then retreats. ESA says Solar Orbiter felt corona heat, estimated at 1 million degrees.

Solar South Pole

Image: ESA and NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI teamImage: ESA and NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI team

Solar Orbiter saw the South Pole of the Sun on March 30. The ESA says the Sun’s poles could be a scientifically mysterious area, but for now we know that the Sun’s magnetic fields – which create the star’s active regions – are swallowed up by the poles. There they could become part of future solar activity. Solar Orbiter will be able to get a better view of the Sun’s poles from 2025, when it uses Venus’ gravitational pull to increase its tilt.

The solar hedgehog

Image: ESA and NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI teamImage: ESA and NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI team

ESA scientists were thrilled to see what they dubbed “the solar hedgehog.” The image was captured on March 30. According to the ESA, the solar hedgehog is a 25,000 kilometers expanse of plasma with different hotter and cooler areas, and the task now is to study this region more deeply.

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