Orbiter captures video of plasma swirling on the sun in “exquisite detail”

A European Space Agency spacecraft has captured new video of the Sun's surface, showing plasma swirling on the star's “alien” surface, according to a press release from the organization.

The ESA said the images were taken by the Solar Orbiter, which was launched in February 2020 and has released images from its position near the sun in recent years. The orbiter also took the closest images ever of the sun and its polar regions, the ESA said online.

The new images were taken when the orbiter “filmed the transition from the Sun's lower atmosphere to the much hotter outer corona” on September 27, 2023, the ESA said.

In the videothe surface of the sun appears hairy with dark yellow material as golden rays fly overhead. The hair-like structures are made of plasma and follow the magnetic fields emanating from the sun's interior. The emerging structures are spicules, gas clouds that can reach heights of more than 9,000 kilometers. The “exquisite details” of the images are unlike previous photographs of the area.


The Sun's fluffy corona in exquisite detail – without annotations Through
European Space Agency, ESA on
YouTube

Visible in the bottom left corner of the video is a feature the ESA calls coronal 'moss', which typically appears at the base of objects too hot to be seen with cameras.

Beyond the structures, the orbiter even captured an eruption on the Sun's surface. The event appears small, appearing in the middle of the video at around 20 seconds, but the ESA said the eruption is larger than Earth. During the eruption, cooler material – which appears darker and absorbs radiation from the sun – is lifted up and then falls back down.

The eruption is followed by a cooling coronal rain. The rain, which consists of clumps of plasma falling back to the sun's surface, is “likely less” than 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the agency said, and it appears dark against the large coronal loops, which are around 1,800,032 degrees Fahrenheit .

The unprecedented images were released as part of the spacecraft's mission to learn more about the sun. NASA's Parker Solar Probe also examined the Sun on the same day the video was taken, measuring particles and the magnetic field around the star. The two missions even worked together to measure a solar wind blowing through the area, the ESA said.

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