Solar Orbiter sends back the closest photos of the Sun ever taken – Astronomy Magazine

Posted: July 21, 2020 at 12:22 pm

Another instrument, the Solar and Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI), sent back shots of the zodiacal light, which occurs when sunlight reflects off dust particles in our solar system. Although these images dont signify a new discovery, taking them required SoloHI to tamp down the Suns glare to just a trillionth its actual brightness. By successfully completing the task, researchers are confident SoloHI can produce the image quality needed to study the solar wind (the instruments intended purpose) once the mission ramps up.

The Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI) also beamed back high-resolution data showing the Suns intricate and powerful magnetic field. And in a first, PHI revealed a view of a local magnetic field on the Sun that was not visible from Earth at the time, exemplifying just one advantage of the spacecrafts intentionally tilted orbit.

The Suns magnetic field drives numerous internal processes, which can produce solar flares and other powerful outbursts. Such energetic solar events can affect us here on Earth, too from sparking stunning auroras to knocking out satellite communications and earthbound power grids. But by monitoring the Sun with spacecraft such as Solar Orbiter and the Parker Solar Probe, scientists should be able to better predict when Earth-affecting space weather will occur.

All in all, these first results show that we still have much to learn about our home star, as well as the forces that power its frequently finicky behavior. Solar Orbiter is off to an excellent start, said project scientist Daniel Mller. We are all really excited about these first images but this is just the beginning.

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Solar Orbiter sends back the closest photos of the Sun ever taken - Astronomy Magazine

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