The first images from ESA’s Solar Orbiter, captured around the spacecraft’s first close pass of the Sun, some 77 million kilometres from its surface, are already exceeding expectations revealing interesting new phenomena on our parent star.
This animation shows a series of close-up views captured by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) at wavelengths of 17 nanometers, showing the upper atmosphere of the Sun, or corona, with a temperature of around 1 million degrees.
These images reveal a multitude of small flaring loops, erupting bright spots and dark, moving fibrils. A ubiquitous feature of the solar surface, uncovered for the first time by these images, have been called ‘campfires’. They are omnipresent minuature eruptions that could be contributing to the high temperatures of the solar corona and the origin of the solar wind.
Captured on 30 May 2020, when Solar Orbiter was roughly halfway between the Earth and the Sun, these are the closest views of the Sun ever taken, allowing EUI to see features in the solar corona of only 400 km across. As the mission continues, Solar Orbiter will go closer to the Sun and this will increase the instrument’s resolving power by a factor of two at closest approach.
The colour on this image has been artificially added because the original wavelength detected by the instrument is invisible to the human eye.
The circle in the lower left corner indicates the size of Earth for scale.
The extended grey shape visible at times moving across the field (00:00-00:25; 01:00-01:28; 01:50-02:00; 02:52-03:27) is not a solar feature but is caused by a sensor artefact.
Solar Orbiter is a space mission of international collaboration between ESA and NASA.