LAKE MARY, Fla. - The first images from NASA’s Solar Orbiter are here. They are the closest pictures ever taken of the Sun.
Just five months ago, NASA’s Solar Orbiter was launched into space on a mission to study our closest star. As it flew within 48 million miles of the Sun, the solar orbiter snapped some photos Scientists call the little solar flares “campfires.”
“These campfires and ghosts are related to changes in the sun’s magnetic field,” said Daniel Muller, a Solar Orbiter project scientist at ESA, “a process known as magnetic reconnection.”
These campfires, or little explosions, are all over the sun’s surface and could help explain the mystery of why the Sun’s atmosphere is hotter than its surface.
“We have a hot core and a relatively cool surface of just 5,500 degrees surrounded by a super hot atmosphere of more than a million degrees,” Muller said. “It’s as if you would light a fire and as you move away from the fire it doesn’t get cooler, but in fact, it really starts to burn really far away.”
The Solar Orbiter is still on its way traveling closer to the sun. By December, it will be by Venus.
“The environment that close is extremely harsh,” said Holly Gilbert a NASA Solar Orbiter project scientist.
Scientists are hoping to learn more about the sun’s magnetic fields that can impact astronauts, satellites, and everyday technology like radios and GPS and ultimately forecast any eruptions that could impact Earth.
“What we hope at one point would be able to make predictions,” said Sam Solanki, principal investigator of the Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager. “For that, the first thing that is missing is a proper understanding of what causes these eruptions.’"
One step closer to understanding the layers of the Sun and how it drives weather here on Earth and throughout our solar system.