NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) published on Thursday (16) the closest images ever captured of the Sun’s surface. Made by the Solar Orbiter (SolO), the records surprised scientists by revealing a phenomenon so far unknown: small flames on the surface of the star that the researchers called “campfires” and “nanoflares” (bonfires and nano-flames, in free translation).
These small flames are millions or even billions of times smaller and less intense than massive eruptions that periodically occur in the Sun. Although the origins of the new phenomenon are still unknown, NASA and ESA scientists believe the discovery could help astronomers go deeper studies on the solar atmosphere, also known as Corona.
Records captured by Sonda SolO. The arrows indicate the small flames detected by the scientists. Image: ESA / NASA
“These incredible records will help scientists study the atmospheric layers of the Sun, which is important for understanding how it affects the climate [espacial] close to Earth and throughout the Solar System, “said Holly Gilbert, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a note published on the agency’s website.
The researchers observed that the flames detected by Solar Orbiter apparently do not occur in places close to sunspots or in regions of intense solar activity. As the The Verge, solar flares are associated with the appearance of dark spots on the surface of the star, which cause oscillations in the star’s magnetic field and release rays of energy out of the atmosphere.
The next step to investigate the phenomenon is to measure the temperature of the flames with the spectral imaging tool SPICE, equipped on Solar Orbiter. “We look forward to our next set of data,” says Frdric Auchre, principal investigator for SPICE operations at the Space Astrophysics Institute in Orsay, France. “The hope of detecting nanoflares and quantifying the role [deles] in coronal heating “.
Solar Orbiter images were captured 77 million kilometers from the Sun’s surface – approximately half the distance between the star and the Earth. No other spacecraft has taken photos of the star’s surface at equal or less distances. The mission aims to obtain records of the solar poles, points that have not yet been explored by any other space expedition.
Scientists project that, during the mission, the probe should still reach a distance of 42 million kilometers from the surface of the Sun. In other words, it expects even closer photos than those revealed by NASA and ESA this Thursday.
Even so, Solar Orbit will not surpass the Parker Solar Probe record, which reached the milestone of 18 million kilometers from the star. The Parker probe, however, has no optical systems for capturing images directly from the solar surface.
Source: The Verge / Nasa