Video: Solar Orbiter captures an unprecedented view of the solar corona – Science

The ESA-led Solar Orbiter mission has experienced its second close encounter with the Sun, with an unprecedented resolution view of our star’s calm corona.

The moment of maximum close up took place on October 12 at 19:12 UTC, when the spacecraft was only 29% of the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

A film released by ESA comes from October 13, when the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) from the spacecraft returned the highest-resolution sequence of the calm corona ever taken with any instrument.

Every pixel of this film encompasses 105km on the surface of the Sun. This means that if EUI were looking at Earth from this distance, our entire planet would span just 120 pixels across.

The film itself is 2,048 wide, which means 17 Earths would fit side by side in this image.

calm crown

The corona is the outer atmosphere of the Sun. It is called calm when there is little appreciable solar activity, such as flares or coronal mass ejections.

This movie, and others taken during the encounter, show the dynamic nature of the hot corona of a million degrees from the Sun.

The electrically charged gas here, known as plasma, it is in constant motion, guided and accelerated by changes in the Sun’s magnetic field.

The glowing plasma arcs on the film are held in place by loops of magnetism bursting into the corona from inside the Sun.

solar maximum

Currently, the Sun is reaching a peak in its activity levels, known as solar maximum, in 2025.

Therefore, it is likely that the views of a calm crown become rarer in the coming years, reports the ESA.

The Sun sends out a solar wind of particles that flows through the Solar system. It originates in the crown, but the precise mechanism by which this happens is poorly understood.

Investigating this phenomenon is a key focus for solar physicists and one of the main scientific goals of Solar Orbiter.

Coordinated Observations

This particular encounter benefited from Solar Orbiter quickly flying in the direction of the Land. This allowed much more data to be downloaded.

It also allowed for coordinated observations of solar features with ground-based telescopes, starting on October 21.

“I am looking forward to the data from all ten instruments being downloaded over the next few weeks, and then the global scientific community will be very busy discovering new things using this unique dataset,” says Daniel Müller, project scientist at the THIS for Solar Orbiter.

Solar Orbiter is a Space mission international collaboration between ESA and NASA, operated by ESA.