This infographic summarises the first views obtained by ESA’s Solar Orbiter mission of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, and beyond. The corona extends millions of kilometres into outer space and is thought to be the origin of the solar wind, stream of charged particles constantly released by the Sun.
On the left, a composite mosaic of first-light images obtained with the Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) on 5 June 2020 shows the faint signal from electrons in the solar wind at distances from the Sun of about 10 to 85 times the solar radius. On the right, an image obtained on 21 June with Solar Orbiter’s Coronagraph (Metis) provides a view of the corona in visible light, covering heights from 3.2 to 5.8 times the solar radius from the Sun’s centre; in the middle of the Metis image, a view obtained with the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) on Solar Orbiter shows the Sun’s atmosphere underneath the corona.
Solar Orbiter is a space mission of international collaboration between ESA and NASA.