It’s difficult to look at the Sun. You will incur eye injury if you do it yourself. If you perform it on Earth with very sophisticated scientific equipment, you’ll observe that the atmosphere gets in the way. You must look from space for the best results. This is exactly what the European Space Agency accomplished with its Solar Orbiter (SoIO) mission, allowing us to obtain close-up images of the Sun that show every flaw and sunspot.
The Solar Orbiter’s cameras have obtained high-quality photographs from a closer vantage point than any camera ever. It is located 77,000,000 kilometres (48,000,000 miles) from Earth, approximately halfway to the Sun. More crucially, they can photograph in ultraviolet light, which is heavily blocked by Earth’s atmosphere and difficult to perform without being in space.
The photographs, which can be viewed below, are breathtaking. They also contribute to answering a few questions about how the Sun operates while raising new ones as the expedition progresses.
When you look at several of these photographs, the top image with an arrow sticks out since it has little white streaks. These are nanoflares, which are also known as “campfires.” They are 700-kilometre-wide relatives of solar flares that burn at one million degrees Celsius, about 200 times hotter than the photosphere underneath them.
According to one theory, a large number of them might be part of the process that keeps the Sun’s corona, or outer atmosphere, hotter than its surface.
Daniel Müller, an ESA project scientist, stated this concept to the BBC: “The Sun has a relatively cool surface of about 5,500 degrees and is surrounded by a super-hot atmosphere of more than a million degrees. […]There’s a theory put forward by the great US physicist Eugene Parker, who conjectured that if you should have a vast number of tiny flares this might account for an omnipresent heating mechanism that could make the corona hot.”
While bigger nanoflares may be observed from Earth, the photographs given by this spacecraft indicate that they may be smaller than previously thought and occur more frequently than previously believed. Scientists aren’t clear why they exist or what systems they engage with at the moment.
All of these photos are from tests to evaluate how the equipment works in space. The major mission of the probe will begin when it reaches a distance of 48,000,000 kilometres from the Sun.