Videos captured by NASA’s probe show the sun like you’ve never seen it before

On March 26, the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA) in partnership with NASA, got closer to the sun’s corona than ever before. During the point in their orbit closest to our star, known as perihelion, all ten instruments operate simultaneously, working together to collect important and previously unseen data.

The closest planet, Mercury, is located more than 57 million kilometers from the Sun. The Solar Orbiter got even closer, coming within 48 million kilometers of our host star, where it can be observed like never before in history.

For the first time, the entire Sun, including its poles, was recorded, which is often difficult to observe due to the Earth’s vantage point in orbit around the solar equator.

NASA’s probe recorded hard-to-reach areas on the sun

Polar regions are thought to be extremely important to the Sun’s magnetic fields, which play an essential role in solar activity. However, because the poles are difficult to see, we don’t know what happens to the magnetic fields in these regions.

Through its sophisticated suite of instruments, the Solar Orbiter offers unprecedented insight into these mysterious regions. NASA has released two films produced by the spacecraft. The first, recorded the day after perihelion, and the other four days after.

This first movie highlights both full-length images of the disk, taken with the probe’s Full Sun Imager Telescope (FSI), and detailed images of a smaller area, taken with the High Resolution Imaging Telescope (HRIEUV). It is possible to see coronal bands very excited by solar activity.

The film then approaches the HRIEUV target region, where smaller coronal rings can be seen. According to NASA, the color was added artificially because the original wavelength detected by the device is invisible to the human eye.

In the second movie, the spacecraft spotted a fascinating and mysterious feature of our star, known as “the hedgehog,” which astrophysicists have yet to discover exactly what it is or how it formed. It is only known that it exists and occupies an area with a diameter of about 25,000 km.

Images captured in the intense ultraviolet by the Solar Orbiter, with a wavelength of 17 nanometers, were finally able to reveal its activity. And what an activity: very hot and less hot gas ripples emanating in all directions from the solar corona, indicating the strength of its magnetic field.

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The solar wind passes through Pluto’s orbit

According to Science Alert, the main purpose of the Solar Orbiter probe is to help scientists understand the Sun’s influence on the entire heliosphere, or the field of solar influence defined by the solar wind, which extends beyond Pluto’s orbit. This solar wind blows particles and gases into interplanetary space, mixing with planets with tangible effects.

The closer he gets to the sun, the better he can show scientists how the solar wind blows. Before hitting perihelion on March 21, the spacecraft detected a stream of energetic particles, and even at that distance, the observation was revealing.

The most active particles arrived first, followed by the least active particles. This indicates that the particles were not produced near the Solar Orbiter’s location, but rather near the surface of the Sun.

Starting in 2025, the Solar Orbiter will use the gravitational force of Venus to gradually increase the inclination of its orbit. This will allow the spacecraft’s instruments to examine the solar poles from top to bottom.

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