The first close encounter with the Sun of the Solar Orbiter |  urania

The European Solar Orbiter has set a record close to our star. On March 26, 2022, the spacecraft passed through perihelion in its current orbit, just 48 million kilometers from the Sun – less than the distance from Earth to the Sun. We have new photos of our star with the devices on the ship!

The European Solar Orbiter probe was developed in cooperation with NASA. The ship was launched on February 10, 2020. Using the assisted gravity of other celestial bodies, the probe lowers its orbit and moves closer to the sun. The Solar Orbiter’s first approach was 77 million km. The first pictures of this close-up have been published It was possible to observe, among other things, small solar flares (the so-called “fires”). Eventually, the ship will come close to the Sun by 42 million kilometers. Poland also takes part in the Solar Orbiter mission, which is the space research center of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Read also: The solar probe passes through the tail remnants of Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS)

As with previous near misses, all ten scientific instruments were deployed to record as much data as possible. Among the instruments, there was, among other things, the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) telescope, which should provide the most accurate ultraviolet images of our star ever taken from this distance.

The sun in ultraviolet rays

We got some of the most accurate ultraviolet images of the sun before its last perihelion. On March 7, 2022, the Solar Orbiter passed exactly the line between the Earth and the Sun.. During this time, a series of observations were made using remote sensing instruments.

Why are Earth and Sun observations so important? The SOHO Solar Space Telescope is located at the same position at the L1 oscillation point of the Earth-Sun system. Hinode and IRIS also operate from Earth Neighborhood. Observations from these telescopes and the Solar Orbiter probe allow the data to be calibrated and verified.

The EUI detected the Sun in the 17 nanometer range. From 25 images taken within 4 hours, from a distance of 75 million km, the following mosaic was created, consisting of more than 80 million pixels. This is the most accurate image of the entire Sun’s disk and the Sun’s corona. The maximum range of ultraviolet radiation clearly shows the upper layers of the Sun’s atmosphere – that is, the corona’s temperature rises to a temperature of one million degrees Celsius.

In the upper right corner of the mosaic, a ground disk has been added to compare scales.

Source: ESA/NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI; Data processing: E. Kraaikamp (ROB)

On the edge of the sun’s disk at 2 o’clock and 8 o’clock, you can see dark threads sticking out. They are salient points that, as a result of eruptions, eject large amounts of coronal gas, creating geomagnetic storms.

As it neared perigee, the SPICE instrument also noticed the disc of the sun. SPICE is an ultraviolet spectrometer that allows you to record light with different wavelengths of intense ultraviolet radiation. Thanks to this, it is possible to see the layers of the Sun’s atmosphere from the corona to the chromosphere near the imaginary surface of the Sun.

One advantage of this multi-layered view is the ability to identify the sources of solar flares. Scientists hope that observing these dynamics will solve the mystery of the rising temperature in the corona as it moves away from the sun. The following colors correspond to: purple – hydrogen at 10,000 ° C, blue – carbon at 32,000 ° C, green – oxygen at 320,000 ° C and yellow – neon at 630,000 ° C.

sun gif
Source: European Space Agency/NASA/Solar Orbiter/SPICE; Data processing: J. Bellows (IAS)

Finally, we present a series of images from the EUI Tool. These are the images recorded from January 1 to March 2, 2022. They therefore represent the time since the Solar Orbiter probe was close to Earth 150 million km from the Sun, roughly until the Earth-Sun line crossed this distance (75 million km).

The last few seconds show a bright solar flare on March 2, which is classified as a Class 4 glow on the five-point glow intensity scale.

more information:

Written by: Rafai Grabinsky

Source: European Space Agency / NASA

Cover Photo: An artistic view of the orbiting solar probe studying the sun. Source: ESA.

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