The Solar Orbiter spacecraft will approach the Sun on Saturday (March 26), and will pass about a third of the distance between the Sun and Earth. And we can expect some great new record-breaking photos to follow soon!
The daring European mission (with a contribution from NASA) will look at the sun From a distance of “only” 30 million miles (48.3 million km) on Saturday morning at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT). In doing so, the probe is set to break its own previous record for the closest images of the Sun ever taken.
While NASA Parker Solar Probe It dives close to the star, within a few million miles of its surface, and the environment it encounters is too hot to hold a sun-facing camera. Thus, the job of the best close-up photographer of the sun belongs to solar orbit.
The European Space Agency released on Thursday (24 March) Photo taken by the spacecraft two weeks ago When it was exactly halfway between the Sun and our planet (47.8 million miles or 77 million km), heading toward the closest point in its elliptical orbit around the star, perihelion.
Since the launch of the Solar Orbiter in February 2020, ground control teams have been gradually tightening the spacecraft’s orbit around the Sun. So the previous closest approaches were done far from the Sun, about half the distance between the Sun and the Earth. A future perihelion will see it dive close to the solar orbiter, up to a distance of up to 26 million miles (42 million km) from the surface of the Sun.
Solar Orbiter’s 10 instruments will use Saturday’s closing approach to capture a new set of detailed images of sun atmosphereMake measurements of its magnetic field, as well as the solar wind emanating from the star as it hits the spacecraft.
Scientists are eager to see the data. Images taken during the Solar Orbiter’s first close approach to the Sun in June 2020, revealed previously unobserved miniature solar flares, dubbed campfires.
“Campfires are young relatives of solar flares David Bergmans, an astrophysicist at the Royal Belgian Observatory and principal investigator for the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, which captured those images, says in another image. ESA . statement Soon after, the year 2020 hit rock bottom.
Bergmans noted that the Sun, in the dim period of its 11-year activity cycle, has much more energy than it appears. “The sun may look calm at first glance, but when we look in detail, we can see those mini-flares everywhere we look,” he added.
The sun has since woken up and has recently been active, promising an even more vibrant spectacle than a photo opportunity for 2020.