JUL 18, 2020 11:17 AM PDT

Closest Ever Images of the Sun Expose Previously Unknown Features

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

New images from the Solar Orbiter, a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) that launched in February, have revealed previously unknown features on the sun. 

"We've never been closer to the sun with a camera, and this is just the beginning of the long, epic journey of Solar Orbiter," says Daniel Müller, one of the scientists behind the Solar Orbiter project scientist.

The orbiter's first images come from 48 million miles (77 million kilometers) from the sun or half the distance between the sun and the Earth. By the end of the mission, the scientists hope that the orbiter will reach half that distance again from the sun- the closest any probe carrying instruments has been to it so far. 

To begin, the scientists didn't dare expect too much from the first images. However, upon seeing them, thanks to their detail, they were able to identify an entirely new feature on the sun. In particular, they noticed 'tiny campfires' or bursts on the sun's surface around the size of a European country. 

"The campfires are little relatives of the solar flares that we can observe from Earth, million or billion times smaller," says David Berghmans, principal investigator of one of the instruments onboard Solar Orbiter. "The sun might look quiet at the first glance, but when we look in detail, we can see those miniature flares everywhere we look."

Despite Berghmans' suspicion on their mechanisms, others say that it is too early to draw any scientific conclusions from what they saw. It is thus currently unknown whether these campfires are miniature solar flares or something new. 

The researchers hope that studying these campfires more closely will help us understand why the sun's outer atmosphere, known as the 'corona', is much hotter than its visible surface. While the sun's surface is around 55,000 degrees Celcius (99,000 degrees Fahrenheit), the corona is estimated to stand at millions of degrees- whether measured in Celcius or Fahrenheit. This, of course, seemingly defies logic, as we would generally expect the corona to be cooler than the sun's fusion furnace.

 

Sources: Space.com IESA

 

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
JUN 29, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Hubble Captures the 'Flapping' of Cosmic 'Wings'
JUN 29, 2020
Hubble Captures the 'Flapping' of Cosmic 'Wings'
The Hubble Space Telescope continues to send us incredible images of space. It has recently captured an image involving ...
JUL 31, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Light from the Big Bang Reveals Age of the Universe
JUL 31, 2020
Light from the Big Bang Reveals Age of the Universe
From analyzing ancient light emitted by the Big Bang, physicists have been able to provide a new estimate of the Earth&# ...
AUG 18, 2020
Space & Astronomy
First Visitor from Another Solar System Remains Unknown
AUG 18, 2020
First Visitor from Another Solar System Remains Unknown
An object hurtling through our solar system known as 'Oumuamua' is our first visitor from another solar sys ...
AUG 24, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Asteroid May Collide With Earth in November
AUG 24, 2020
Asteroid May Collide With Earth in November
NASA has said that an asteroid known as 2018VP1 is heading towards Earth, and may potentially collide with our planet on ...
AUG 31, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Understanding the Fate of Stars Consumed by Black Holes
AUG 31, 2020
Understanding the Fate of Stars Consumed by Black Holes
If a star gets too close to a supermassive black hole, the forces exerted on the star tear it to shreds, generating a hu ...
SEP 13, 2020
Space & Astronomy
A Missing Piece of the Dark Matter Puzzle
SEP 13, 2020
A Missing Piece of the Dark Matter Puzzle
Most matter, and about a quarter of the mass-energy in the universe is thought to be made of dark matter, but we still d ...
Loading Comments...