Solar Orbiter sends closest picture of sun captured ever

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Solar Orbiter sends closest picture of sun captured ever
Solar Orbiter sends closest picture of sun captured ever

New Delhi : The solar orbiter has returned the first data, now available to the public, including the closest picture of the Sun ever taken in history. Solar Orbiter is an international collaboration between the European Space Agency, or ESA, and NASA, to study our closest star, the Sun.

It was launched on February 9, 2020. It completed its closest pass on the sun in mid-June.

“These unprecedented pictures of the Sun are the closest we have ever obtained,” said Holly Gilbert, NASA project scientist for the mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “These amazing images will help scientists piece together the Sun’s atmospheric layers, which is important for understanding how it drives space weather near the Earth and throughout the solar system.”

“We didn’t expect such great results so early,” said Daniel Müller, ESA’s Solar Orbiter project scientist. “These images show that Solar Orbiter is off to an excellent start.”

Reaching till this stage was not easy considering the over restrictions and limitations imposed due to coronavirus pandemic. The European Space Operations Center, or ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany was closed completely for more than a week. And for several other days only a few people were there to keep things running. 

“The pandemic required us to perform critical operations remotely – the first time we have ever done that,” said Russell Howard, principal investigator for one of Solar Orbiter's imagers.

But the team adapted and worked together.

Solar Orbiter carries six imaging instruments, each of which studies a different aspect of the Sun. Normally, the first images from a spacecraft confirm the instruments are working; scientists don’t expect new discoveries from them. But the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, or EUI, on Solar Orbiter returned data hinting at solar features never observed in such detail.