Have you ever seen the videos of people taking daily selfies of themselves over the course of years or even decades? Now the sun has started it’s own series of pictures – with 366 complete pictures from the year 2020, captured by the European Space Agency’s Proba-2 satellite.
There are a couple of interesting things to note in the pictures. The first and most obvious is the fact that the satellite experienced two partial solar eclipses, on June 21st and December 14th. In the pictures, that phenomena makes the sun look like the Cookie Monster got a hold of it for a day.
Perhaps more interestingly, 2020 marked the start of a new solar activity cycle, which happens about every 11 years. In the images, you can see the sun gradually growing more active throughout the year. In November and December, areas of intense activity are visible. Some of those areas could be responsible for coronal mass ejections or solar flares.
All of these images were captured on the Sun Watcher using Active Pixel System (SWAP) camera, an instrument that focuses on extreme ultraviolet light. The wavelengths it captures show the Sun’s corona, the hottest part which can reach millions of degrees.
Proba-2 isn’t the only satellite taking these pictures of the sun though. It’s successor and technological cousin, Solar Orbiter, has a camera known as the Solar Orbiter Extreme Ultraviolet Imager. It was just launched in 2020, so it wasn’t able to contribute to this stunning series of images from Proba-2, but it will sure be able to in the near future.
Feature Image Credit – 366 images of the sun by the Proba-2 Orbiter. Credit ESA / Royal Observatory of Belgium