NASA Solar Orbiter Sun Closest Star
Photo credit: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL
ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter have transmitted the closest pictures yet taken of the Sun. This project is an international collaboration between the European Space Agency and NASA to study our closest star, the Sun, launched on February 9, 2020. It completed its very first close pass of the Sun in mid-June. The images above show campfires, or mini-explosions known as nanoflares, that help heat the Sun’s outer atmosphere to its temperature 300-times hotter than the solar surface. Read more for a video and additional information.

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is equipped with six imaging instruments, each of which studies various aspects of the Sun. The first images from a spacecraft typically confirm the instruments are working, which means scientists don’t really expect new discoveries from them. However, the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) on Solar Orbiter returned data hinting at solar features never observed in such extreme detail.

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These unprecedented pictures of the Sun are the closest we have ever obtained. These amazing images will help scientists piece together the Sun’s atmospheric layers, which is important for understanding how it drives space weather near the Earth and throughout the solar system,” said Holly Gilbert, NASA project scientist for the mission at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.