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The closest images of the Sun ever taken

July 17, 2020 08:10 IST
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NASA and the European Space Agency released the first-ever closest snaps of the Sun from it's ESA/NASA's Solar Orbiter as it returns the first data.

IMAGE: The British built European Space Agency Solar Orbiter captured the closest images ever taken of the Sun while between the orbits of Venus and Mercury. Photograph: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA)

The Solar Orbiter launched in February 9, 2020 is an international collaboration between the ESA and NASA to study the closest star, that is the Sun. The orbiter completed it's first close pass of the sun in mid-June.


The closest ever images of the sun reveal its surface is speckled with “campfires”, miniature versions of the dramatic solar flares visible from Earth.

The observations, beamed back from the Solar Orbiter spacecraft could help resolve why the sun’s atmosphere is so staggeringly hot compared to the surface -- a central paradox in solar physics. Miniature flares have been proposed as a theoretical explanation for the so-called coronal heating problem, but until now no telescope has had a good enough resolution to observe the sun’s atmosphere in sufficient detail.

IMAGE: A high-resolution image from Solar Orbiter, with an arrow pointing to one of the campfires. Photograph: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA)

When Solar Orbiter captured these images, it was just 77 million kilometers -- or nearly 48 million miles -- away from the Sun. That’s about half the distance between the Sun and the Earth. No spacecraft has ever snapped images of the Sun’s surface from such a close distance before.

IMAGE: Solar Orbiter’s first view of the Sun, taken on May 30, 2020. Photograph: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA)

Stating that the space agencies didn't expect such an excellent result so soon, scientists said that "Solar Orbiter is off to an excellent start".

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