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The first images from ESA’s Solar Orbiter are already exceeding expectations and revealing interesting new phenomena on the Sun.
This animation combines a series of views captured with several remote-sensing instruments on Solar Orbiter between 30 May and 21 June 2020, when the spacecraft was roughly halfway between the Earth and the Sun ¬– closer to the Sun than any other solar telescope has ever been before.
The red and yellow images were taken with the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) in the extreme ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum, at wavelengths of 30 and 17 nanometers, respectively.
The close-up views by EUI show the upper atmosphere of the Sun, or corona, with a temperature of around 1 million degrees. With the power to see features in the solar corona of only 400 km across, these images reveal a multitude of small flaring loops, erupting bright spots and dark, moving fibrils. A ubiquitous feature of the solar surface, uncovered for the first time by these images, have been called ‘campfires’. They are omnipresent minuature eruptions that could be contributing to the high temperatures of the solar corona and the origin of the solar wind.
The EUI images are followed by three views based on data from the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI) instrument. The blue and red view is a ‘tachogram’ of the Sun, showing the line of sight velocity of the Sun, with the blue side turning to us and the red side turning away. The following view is a magnetogram, or a map of magnetic propertied for the whole Sun, featuring a large magnetically active region in the lower right-hand quadrant of the Sun. The yellow-orange view is a visible light image and represents what we would see with the naked eye: there are no sunspots visible because the Sun is displaying only low levels of magnetic activity at the moment.
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