Science & Technology

Solar Orbiter sends closest images of Sun, captures ‘omnipresent’ mini flares

Madrid, Jul 16 (efe-epa).- New images taken 77 million kilometers from the Sun by Solar Orbiter have revealed “omnipresent” solar flares on the surface of the Earth’s life-giving star.

The miniature solar flares have been dubbed “campfires” by the scientists behind the European Space Agency and NASA’s collaborative operation, which revealed the closest images ever taken of the Sun on Thursday.

Daniel Müller, ESA’s Solar Orbiter Project Scientist, said: “These are only the first images and we can already see interesting new phenomena.

“We didn’t really expect such great results right from the start. We can also see how our scientific instruments complement each other, providing a holistic picture of the Sun and the surrounding environment.”

One of the cutting-edge technologies on the Solar Orbiter, which was launched in February and took its latest images near the halfway point between the Earth and the Sun, is its Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager, which can map the magnetic field lines on the star’s surface.

It allows scientists to monitor areas of the sun with particularly strong magnetic field activity, which are more likely to produce large solar flares.

Strong solar flares release energetic particles that boost solar winds, and when they come into contact with the Earth’s magnetosphere, can have an effect on telecommunications and power grids, according to a statement from ESA.

The so-called campfires were detected by Solar Orbiter’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, which revealed the sheer abundance of the smaller solar flares on the Sun’s surface.

David Berghmans of the Royal Observatory of Belgium, principal investigator of the EUI instrument, said: “The campfires are little relatives of the solar flares that we can observe from Earth, million or billion times smaller.

“The Sun might look quiet at the first glance, but when we look in detail, we can see those miniature flares everywhere we look.”

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