The closest images of the Sun ever taken showed tiny solar flares called “bonfires” – all scattered across its surface.
The images were captured last month using Solar Orbiter, a European Space Agency (ESA) probe designed and manufactured in the UK. Scientists say the photographs may shed light on a mysterious process that determines why the star’s outer layer is much hotter than the layers below.
The device was now at a distance of 47 million miles from the surface of the Sun – between the orbits of Venus and Mercury. The mission experts recently received the first ever photographs from such a close distance to the star.
Solar flares are sudden bursts of high-energy radiation from the Sun’s surface that can cause radio and magnetic disturbances on Earth. Dr. Caroline Harper, head of space science at the UK space agency, says scientists were thrilled by the presence of “bonfires” that are “a million times smaller than full-blown flares.”
The author believes that it is these “fires” that may play a role in the heating of the corona, the very mysterious process, as a result of which the outer layer of the sun is 300 times hotter than the lower layers.