Solar Orbiter’s unprecedented view of the quiet corona
The ESA-led Solar Orbiter mission has experienced its second close encounter with the Sun. It is delivering more stunning data, and at higher resolution than ever before!
The moment of closest approach took place on 12 October at 19:12 UTC, when Solar Orbiter was just 29% of the Earth’s distance from the Sun. This movie was made on 13 October, when the spacecraft’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) returned the highest resolution movie of the quiet corona ever taken with any instrument. It shows the dynamic nature of the Sun's million-degree-hot corona and was enhanced with Wavelet Optimized Whitening technique (Frédéric Auchère, IAS).
The corona is the Sun’s outer atmosphere. It is termed quiet when there is little appreciable solar activity such as flares or coronal mass ejections. The Sun is currently ramping up for a peak in its activity levels, known as solar maximum, in 2025. So views of a quiet corona are likely to become rarer in the coming few years.
Each pixel on this movie spans 105 kilometres on the surface of the Sun. This means that if EUI were to look at the Earth from this distance, our entire planet would span just 120 pixels across. The movie itself contains 2048 across, meaning that 17 Earths would fit side by side across this image.
This particular encounter benefited from Solar Orbiter rapidly flying in the direction of Earth. This allowed much more data to be downlinked. It also allowed for co-ordinated observations of solar features to be made with Earth-based telescopes, from 21 October onwards.
More info on the ESA website.
Solar Orbiter is a space mission of international collaboration between ESA and NASA, operated by ESA.