Surrounding the brilliant Sun is a layer of diffuse plasma known as the corona. You can’t see it most of the time, but if you happen to experience a total eclipse, the corona is the glow that surrounds the shadow of the Moon. The corona is pale white, almost pink because it has a temperature of more than a million Kelvin. This is vastly hotter than the surface of the Sun, which is about 6,500 K. So how does the corona get so hot?Continue reading “Small Magnetic Fields Have a Big Impact on the Sun's Atmosphere”
Spacecraft instruments are highly specialized and can take years to design, build, and test. But a last-minute hack to one of the instruments on the ESA’s Solar Orbiter has allowed the spacecraft to take some difficult observations it would otherwise have been unable to take.
It’s all because of one astronomer and an instrument door.Continue reading “A Last-Minute Addition to the Solar Orbiter Allows it to See More Deeply into the Sun’s Atmosphere”
On April 10th, ESA’s Solar Orbiter made its closest flyby of the Sun, coming to within just 29% of the distance from the Earth to the Sun. From this vantage point, the spacecraft is performing close-up studies of our Sun and inner heliosphere. This is basically uncharted territory, as we’ve never had a spacecraft this close to the Sun.
One of the goals of the mission is to figure out why the Sun’s corona — its outer atmosphere — is so hot. The corona can reach temperatures of 2 million degrees C, vastly hotter than its 5,500 C surface. A new paper based on Solar Orbiter data, may offer some clues.Continue reading “Solar Orbiter Continues to Get Closer to the Sun, Revealing More and More With Each Pass”
Solar Orbiter’s unique vantage point recently allowed researchers to make a crucial observation of the solar system’s innermost world.
You never know when a chance for some extra space science will present itself. Recently, European Space Agency (ESA) mission controllers had just such a chance, when the planet Mercury passed in front of our host star as seen from the Solar Orbiter’s point of view in space.Continue reading “ESA’s Solar Orbiter Spies a Transit of Mercury”
Massive solar storms on the Sun are becoming more common as it moves into a period of increasing solar activity as part of Solar Cycle 25, which is expected to peak in 2025. There’s one spacecraft that will be very well placed to capture that increasing activity. Solar Orbiter is currently 25% of the way through its ten-year mission of observing the Sun. By 2025 it will be closer than ever to our parent star, and it has already started observing some fantastic phenomena from our Sun.Continue reading “Solar Orbiter was hit by a Coronal Mass Ejection as it was About to Make a Flyby of Venus”
On March 26th, the ESA’s Solar Orbiter made its closest approach to the Sun so far. It ventured inside Mercury’s orbit and was about one-third the distance from Earth to the Sun. It was hot but worth it.
The Solar Orbiter’s primary mission is to understand the connection between the Sun and its heliosphere, and new images from the close approach are helping build that understanding.Continue reading “Solar Orbiter’s Pictures of the Sun are Every Bit as Dramatic as You Were Hoping”
The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter snaps an amazing image, en route to its first close pass near the Sun.
You’ve never seen the Sun like this. Earlier this month, the European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter captured an amazing view of our host star.
The images were snapped on March 7th, as Solar Orbiter passed directly between the Earth and the Sun. There was an explicit reason for this, as the science team wanted to calibrate and compare the images with Earth-based and missions in Earth orbit, to include the Inouye solar observatory, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and the joint ESA/NASA Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), located at the Lagrange (L1) Sun-Earth point.Continue reading “ESA’s Solar Orbiter Takes a Ludicrously High Resolution Image of the Sun”
Earlier this week the Sun erupted with a huge explosion, blasting solar particles millions of kilometers into space. The team for the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft says the blast is the largest solar prominence eruption ever observed in a single image together with the full solar disc.
Luckily for us here on Earth, the eruption on February 15, 2022 occurred on the farside of the Sun, the side facing away from our planet. But ESA and NASA predict geomagnetic storms are possible in the next few days as the active region on the Sun responsible for the blast turns toward us.Continue reading “A Colossal Flare Erupted From the Far Side of the Sun”
Since early this year, skywatchers on Earth have been tracking Comet Leonard, a kilometer-wide dirty snowball made of ice, rock and dust. Now, as it heads towards a close encounter with the Sun on January 3, 2022, several spacecraft – with the distinct advantage of having an unobstructed front-row seat to the action – have been keeping an eye on how the comet is changing and evolving as it heats up.Continue reading “This Video of Comet Leonard (with Venus and Mercury) will Blow Your Mind”
Two spacecraft made historic flybys of Venus last week, and both sent back sci-fi-type views of the mysterious, cloud-shrouded planet.
The Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo spacecraft both used Venus for gravity assists within 33 hours of each other, capturing unique imagery and data during their encounters.Continue reading “The First Images and Videos from the Double Venus Flyby”