|This video displays a sequence of views of the Sun captured on ESA / NASA ‘s Solar Orbiter with the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) on May 30th 2020. |
Credits: Solar Orbiter / EUI Team (ESA and NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD / WRC, ROB, UCL / MSSL.
Image Solar Orbiter
18th July, 2020
Solar Orbiter Returns First Data, Snaps Closest Images of the Sun by ESA / NASA
The first photographs of the Solar Orbiter from ESA / NASA are now available to the public, including the closest photos of the Sun ever taken.
To research our nearest star, the Sun, Solar Orbiter is an international partnership between the European Space Agency, or ESA, and NASA. The spacecraft, launched on Feb. 9, 2020 (EST), made its first close pass of the Sun in mid-June.
“These incredible photos of the Sun are the best we’ve ever been, “said Holly Gilbert, NASA Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.” These incredible images will allow scientists to establish the atmospheric layers of the Sun that are needed to understand how space weather in the vicinity of the Earth and the solar system affects them.
It has been no easy feat to get to this level. At the European Space Operations Center, or ESOC, in Darmstadt, Germany, the novel coronavirus forced mission control to shut down completely for more than a week. ESOC personnel were reduced to a skeleton crew during commissioning, the time span where each instrument is thoroughly tested. Everyone but necessary workers were operating from home.
“The pandemic allowed us to conduct vital operations remotely – the first time we’ve ever done that,” said Russell Howard, one of Solar Orbiter’s imagers’ principal investigators.
Yet on June 1 and 6, respectively, the squad adjusted, becoming preparing for an unlikely brush with the ion and dust tails of comet ATLAS.
The spacecraft completed commissioning on June 15, just in time for their first near solar trip. When it traveled within 48 million miles from the Sun, all ten instruments flicked on and Solar Orbiter took the Sun’s closest images to date. (Other spacecrafts were similar but none bore images facing the Sun.)