NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) released on Thursday (16) the photos closest to the Sun ever taken. They were captured by the Solar Orbiter probe, launched in February, with the aim of studying the star’s poles more closely.
Recorded on May 30, when the mission reached 77 million kilometers away from the solar surface (half the distance between the star and the Earth), the high-resolution images show phenomena never observed in such detail. Among them, one of the highlights is the eruptions, called by scientists “bonfires”.
These bonfires dotting the solar surface have no known origin yet, but the researchers believe they are mini-explosions that occurred across the star, helping to heat the Sun’s outer atmosphere (corona). “The bonfires we are talking about here are like little nephews from solar flares, at least a million, perhaps billions of times smaller,” commented astrophysicist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium David Berghmans.
To be sure of their influence on the heating of the corona and to quantify their role in the process, mission operators await a more accurate measurement of the temperature of these fires, carried out by one of the probe’s instruments. The data will be available soon.
Future images should be even more detailed
The images of the Sun that have just been revealed are just a sample of what Solar Orbiter can do. According to ESA, the probe’s instruments are not yet fully configured, requiring some adjustments.
Another detail is that the ship will make new approaches to the Sun, getting even closer to the surface than now. In 2021, a maneuver is planned that will place it 42 million kilometers away from the star, being able to record photos in much more detail.
You can see the incredible photos of the Sun taken by the mission on the ESA website.