NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter to Release Closest Pictures of the Sun to Date

When it took the picture, the distance of the spacecraft was approximately half the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
Utku Kucukduner
The photo credit line may appear like thisESA/ATG Medialab

On February 9, 2020, NASA and ESA launched its Solar Orbiter mission. The mission seeks to find answers to some big questions such as how planets develop, how life came to be, how Solar System works, how did the Universe came to be and why physics does what it does.

Solar Orbiter made its first perihelion, the closest orbit point to the Sun, around the Sun on June 15, the distance of the spacecraft was about 47 million miles (77 million km) or approximately half the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The week following this perihelion scientists tested all ten instruments on-board the spacecraft, including 6 telescopes that took the closest pictures of the star to date.

NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter to Release Closest Pictures of the Sun to Date
Source: ESA

Daniel Müller, Solar Orbiter Project Scientist says "We have never taken pictures of the Sun from a closer distance than this, there have been higher resolution close-ups, e.g. taken by the four-meter Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii earlier this year. But from Earth, with the atmosphere between the telescope and the Sun, you can only see a small part of the solar spectrum that you can see from space."

During the briefing, which is set to happen at 8 a.m. EDT (12 p.m. UTC) Thursday, July 16, mission experts will review what these images reveal about our sun and what we can learn from the measurements of particles and magnetic fields outflowing from the Sun.

NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter to Release Closest Pictures of the Sun to Date
Source: ESA

Parker Solar Probe, launched by NASA in 2018 has an even tighter perihelion than Solar Orbiter. Although the spacecraft doesn't have telescopes capable of looking directly at the Sun from such distance. 

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Daniel explained the significance of the mission saying: "For the first time, we will be able to put together the images from all our telescopes and see how they take complementary data of the various parts of the Sun including the surface, the outer atmosphere, or corona, and the wider heliosphere around it."

The briefing will be live-streamed here.

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