May 20, 2022

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A massive solar explosion captured by a solar-powered spacecraft

Solar Orbiter and Soho’s view of the giant eruption – close-up. Credit: Solar Orbiter Team / EUI, SOHO / LASCO, ESA and NASA

European Space Agency /[{” attribute=””>NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft has captured the largest solar prominence eruption ever observed in a single image together with the full solar disc.

Solar prominences are large structures of tangled magnetic field lines that keep dense concentrations of solar plasma suspended above the Sun’s surface, sometimes taking the form of arching loops. They are often associated with coronal mass ejections, which if directed towards Earth, can wreak havoc with our technology and everyday lives.

This last event occurred on February 15, 2022, and stretched millions of kilometers into space. The coronal mass ejection was not directed at Earth. In fact, it is moving away from us. There is no trace of the eruption on the solar disk facing the spacecraft – which is currently approaching the line of the Earth and the Sun – which means it must have originated from the side of the Sun facing away from us.

Solar Orbiter Captures the Giant Solar Explosion

The Full Sun Imager’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager image aboard the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft captured a giant solar outburst on February 15, 2022. Solar prominences are large structures made of interlocking magnetic field lines that maintain dense concentrations of solar plasma suspended above the surface. . The surface of the Sun often takes the form of arched rings. This is the largest notable solar eruption ever observed in a single image with the full solar disk. Credit: Solar Orbiter / EUI Team / ESA and NASA

Photos were taken by .’s “Full Sun Imager” (FSI) Extreme UV imaging (EUI) on the Solar Orbiter. FSI is designed to look at the full solar disk even during passes close to the Sun, such as during the upcoming perihelion corridor next month. At the closest approach on March 26, which will see the spacecraft pass within 0.3 times the distance between the Sun and Earth, the Sun will fill a much larger portion of the telescope’s field of view. At the moment, there is still a lot of “width margin” around the disk, allowing amazing detail to be captured by the FSI for about 3.5 million km, which is five times the radius of the Sun.

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Other space telescopes such as ESA/NASA SOHO . satellite You often see solar activity like this, but either closer to the sun, or further away by the membrane, which blocks the glare of the sun’s disk to enable detailed images of the corona itself. Thus, the prominence observed by the Solar Orbiter is the largest event of its kind captured in a single field of view along with the solar disk, opening up new possibilities for learning how events such as these relate to the solar disk for the first time. At the same time, SOHO It can provide complementary views to greater distances.

There were also other space missions observing the event, including NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. Next week, the Solar Orbiter and Parker Solar Probe will perform joint custom observations during the passage of Parker’s perihelion.

Even spacecraft not dedicated to solar science felt their explosion – European Space Agency /[{” attribute=””>JAXA BepiColombo mission, currently in the vicinity of Mercury’s orbit – detected a massive increase in the readings for electrons, protons, and heavy ions with its radiation monitor.

And while this event did not send a blast of deadly particles towards Earth, it is an important reminder of the unpredictable nature of the Sun and the importance of understanding and monitoring its behavior. Together with ESA’s future dedicated space weather mission Vigil, which will provide unique views of events like these, we can better protect our home planet from the Sun’s violent outbursts.