The ESA-led Solar Orbiter mission has had its second close encounter with the Sun. It delivers more stunning data and at higher resolution than ever before.
The time of closest approach was on October 12 at 19:12 UTC (21:12 CEST), when Solar Orbiter was only 29% of the distance from Earth to the Sun. This film comes from October 13, when the spacecraft’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) rendered the highest resolution film of the silent crown ever taken with any instrument.
Each pixel of this film extends over 105 km on the surface of the Sun. This means that if EUI were to look at Earth from this distance, our entire planet would only cover 120 pixels in diameter. The film itself is 2048 wide, which means 17 Earths would fit side by side in this image.
The corona is the outer atmosphere of the Sun. It is said to be calm when there is little appreciable solar activity, such as flares or coronal mass ejections. This film, and others shot during the encounter, show the dynamic nature of the Sun’s million-degree hot corona. The electrically charged gas here, known as plasma, is in constant motion, guided and accelerated by changes in the Sun’s magnetic field. The glowing arcs of plasma in the film are held in place by loops of magnetism that burst into the corona from within the Sun.
The Sun is currently accelerating to reach a peak in its activity levels, known as solar maximum, in 2025. So sightings of a silent corona are expected to become rarer in the coming years.
The Sun launches a solar wind of particles that passes through the solar system. It originates in the corona, but the precise mechanism by which this occurs is poorly understood. The study of this phenomenon is a key objective for solar physicists and one of the main scientific objectives of Solar Orbiter.
This particular encounter benefited from Solar Orbiter’s rapid flight toward Earth. This made it possible to transfer a lot more data. It also enabled coordinated observations of solar features with terrestrial telescopes, beginning October 21.
“I look forward to the data from all ten instruments being uploaded over the next few weeks, and then the global scientific community will be very busy discovering new things using this unique dataset,” says ESA project scientist Daniel Müller. for Solar Orbiter.
Solar Orbiter is an international collaborative space mission between ESA and NASA, operated by ESA.
This film has been enhanced with the Wavelet Optimized Whitening technique.
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