The Sun like you have never seen it

Start by looking at this vid …..

The first pictures from SoLO – the name of the spacecraft are stunning:

The sun’s surface with earth in the corner for scale

This picture of the Sun was taken just 48 million miles from its surface is the closest ever acquired by cameras. The picture comes from the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter (SolO) probe, which was launched earlier this year. Among the craft’s novel insights are views of mini-flares dubbed “camp fires” such as the one with arrow pointing at it in the above photo.

These are millionths of the size of the Sun’s giant flares that are routinely observed by Earth telescopes. Whether these miniature versions are driven by the same mechanisms, though, is unclear. But these small flares could be involved in the mysterious heating process that makes the star’s outer atmosphere, or corona, far hotter than its surface. “The Sun has a relatively cool surface of about 5,500 degrees and is surrounded by a super-hot atmosphere of more than a million degrees,” explained Esa project scientist Daniel Müller.

The Sun’s emissions have profound impacts at Earth that go far beyond just providing light and warmth. Often, they are disruptive; outbursts of charged particles with their entrained magnetic fields will trip electronics on satellites and degrade radio communications. SolO could help scientists better predict this interference.

“The recent situation with coronavirus has proved how important it is to stay connected, and satellites are part of that connectivity,” said Caroline Harper, the head of space science at the UK Space Agency. “So, it really is important that we learn more about the Sun so that we can predict its weather, its space weather, in the same ways we’ve learned how to do (with weather) here on Earth.”

SoLo’s 10 instruments will enable scientists to untangle what drives the sun

Solar Orbiter has been set on a series of loops around the Sun that will gradually take it closer still – ultimately to a separation of less than 43 million km. That will put SolO inside the orbit of the planet Mercury.