Click for full image.
The Solar Orbiter science team today released the first images taken during the spacecraft’s first close fly-by of the Sun.
The image to the right, reduced to post here, highlights what they are touting as their first discovery, what they have dubbed “campfires” on the solar surface, small flares previously not known to exist.
The campfires shown in the first image set were captured by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) from Solar Orbiter’s first perihelion, the point in its elliptical orbit closest to the Sun. At that time, the spacecraft was only 77 million km away from the Sun, about half the distance between Earth and the star. “The campfires are little relatives of the solar flares that we can observe from Earth, million or billion times smaller,” says David Berghmans of the Royal Observatory of Belgium (ROB), Principal Investigator of the EUI instrument, which takes high-resolution images of the lower layers of the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the solar corona. “The Sun might look quiet at the first glance, but when we look in detail, we can see those miniature flares everywhere we look.”
The scientists do not know yet whether the campfires are just tiny versions of big flares, or whether they are driven by different mechanisms. There are, however, already theories that these miniature flares could be contributing to one of the most mysterious phenomena on the Sun, the coronal heating.
Much more to come in future orbits, as the spacecraft works its way even closer to the Sun.
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