Solar Orbiter observations revealed more details of the Sun’s behavior

It seems that this has been a productive year for solar observations, highlighting the images taken of the Sun by the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawi (DKIST), ranked as the best so far. In them we could observe a surface where the individual plasma cells maintained an up and down movement that was hypnotic.

Later came the mission of the Solar Orbiter led by ESA that gave us images of its approach to the Sun, which, despite not being as surprising as those obtained by DKIST, represented quite a feat because they were the closest images taken of it. star.

In them it was possible to appreciate a landscape of endless stormy activity coming from the corona of the Sun (atmosphere) where characteristics of only 250 to 310 miles wide were detected in which the existence of small bonfires was discovered, a word used to define flares solar that occur near the surface.

In reference to this, the Principal Investigator of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) mission instrument, David Long expressed We haven’t been able to see them properly before, so it’s really exciting..

One of the concerns that scientists have always had with respect to the Sun is that related to the heating of the corona in which they do not understand why the Sun’s atmosphere burns at a temperature higher than a million degrees Celsius, while on the surface of this the temperature is only 5500 degrees Celsius.

Possible hypotheses

It is here that the new observations have shed light on this question. The results obtained suggest that this phenomenon could be caused by the occurrence of small events, such as bonfires, distributed along the surface, releasing energy that then ignites the crown that in the end, together, contribute to raising the temperatures of the atmosphere.

In this regard, Long expres More data will be needed to prove that this is how corona heating works, but it is a very promising first set of observations.

It should be noted that these new data were obtained from the mission’s first close pass of the Sun in June, and it is expected that at the beginning of 2022 the Orbiter will reach a proximity with respect to the star of almost 48 million km, this being a distance closer than that of the orbit of Mercury.

Along with the study of the physical properties of the Sun, there is a more practical reason implicit in the operation of the Solar Orbiter, and it is to understand space weather, or rather the stream of charged particles energized by the Sun and ejected into space. Exterior.

And while the Earth’s magnetic field offers protection against bombardment by these particles, the truth is that extreme space weather can have the ability to fry any electronic equipment in orbit, such as GPS satellites and spacecraft. communications, as well as the electrical networks on the surface that sustain our daily lives.

That is why, in order to anticipate the occurrence of this type of catastrophes generated by space weather and establish protection protocols, it is necessary to obtain more information about the way in which the Sun’s magnetic fields interact with its active regions to give rise to phenomena such as solar flares, extreme solar winds, and coronal mass ejections.

For now the Solar Orbiter is in its cruise phase where it is moving away from the Earth and is located behind the Sun, which means that it will not be able to carry out the study of the campfire until the arrival of the science phase. , which is set to start in November 2021.

However, the current stage represents a good time for solar observations. This, because the solar cycle has just started in which the spacecraft is expected to obtain data from the new solar flares that are generated in this phase.

This initiative will allow to have a clearer notion about the behavior of this phenomenon that will lead later to decipher how they occur, the severe impact that the space weather caused by these could have on human activity and what type of strategies should be established to obtain a prediction. anticipated.