Solar Orbiter Spacecraft Captures the Full Sun in Unprecedented Detail

Solar Orbiter Close Approach Sun

Animation of ESA’s Sun-explorer Solar Orbiter. Credit: ESA/Medialab

The newest photographs from the Solar Orbiter reveal unprecedented detail of the whole Sun. They were taken on March 7, 2022, when the spacecraft passed between the Earth and the Sun.

The Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) took one of the photographs, which is the highest resolution image of the Sun’s complete disc and outer atmosphere, the corona, ever taken.

Another picture, captured by the Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (SPICE) instrument, is the first full-Sun image in 50 years and is by far the best one. It was shot at the Lyman-beta wavelength of ultraviolet light released by hydrogen gas.

The photographs were collected while Solar Orbiter was halfway between our planet and its parent star, at a distance of around 75 million kilometers. EUI’s high-resolution telescope captures photos with such high spatial resolution that a mosaic of 25 separate photographs is required to cover the full Sun at such a close distance. Because each tile takes around 10 minutes, including the time for the spacecraft to point from one section to the next, the whole picture was obtained over a period of more than four hours, taken one after the other.

Solar Orbiter Captures Sun in Extreme Ultraviolet Light

The Sun as seen by Solar Orbiter in extreme ultraviolet light from a distance of roughly 75 million kilometers. The image is a mosaic of 25 individual images taken on March 7, 2022, by the high resolution telescope of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) instrument. Taken at a wavelength of 17 nanometers, in the extreme ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum, this image reveals the Sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, which has a temperature of around a million degrees Celsius. An image of Earth is also included for scale, at the 2 o’clock position. Credit: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI team; Data processing: E. Kraaikamp (ROB)

In total, the final image contains more than 83 million pixels in a 9148 x 9112 pixel grid. For comparison, this image has a resolution that is ten times better than what a 4K TV screen can display.

EUI images the Sun at a wavelength of 17 nanometers, in the extreme ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum. This reveals the Sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, which has a temperature of around a million degrees Celsius.

Taking the Sun’s Temperature

Solar Orbiter took images of the Sun on March 7, from a distance of roughly 75 million kilometers, using its Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (SPICE) instrument. SPICE takes simultaneous “spectral images” at several different wavelengths of the extreme ultraviolet spectrum by scanning its spectrometer slit across a region on the Sun. The different wavelengths recorded correspond to different layers in the Sun’s lower atmosphere. Purple corresponds to hydrogen gas at a temperature of 10,000°C, blue to carbon at 32,000°C, green to oxygen at 320,000°C, yellow to neon at 630,000°C. Each full-Sun image is made up of a mosaic of 25 individual scans. It represents the best full Sun image taken at the Lyman beta wavelength of ultraviolet light that is emitted by hydrogen gas. Credit: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/SPICE team; Data processing: G. Pelouze (IAS)

At the 2 o’clock (near the image of the Earth for scale) and 8 o’clock positions on the edges of the Sun, dark filaments can be seen projecting away from the surface. These ‘prominences’ are prone to erupt, throwing huge quantities of coronal gas into space and creating ‘space weather’ storms.

In addition to EUI, the SPICE instrument was also recording data during the crossing. These too needed to be pieced together as a mosaic.

SPICE is designed to trace the layers in the Sun’s atmosphere from the corona, down to a layer known as the chromosphere, getting closer to the surface. The instrument does this by looking at the different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light that come from different atoms.

Taking the Sun’s Temperature

Taking the Sun’s temperature. Credit: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/SPICE team; Data processing: G. Pelouze (IAS)

In the SPICE sequence of images purple corresponds to hydrogen gas at a temperature of 10,000°C, blue to carbon at 32,000°C, green to oxygen at 320,000°C, yellow to neon at 630,000°C.

This will allow solar physicists to trace the extraordinarily powerful eruptions that take place in the corona down through the lower atmospheric layers. It will also allow them to study one of the most puzzling observations about the Sun: how the temperature is rising through the ascending atmospheric layers.

Usually the temperature drops as you move away from a hot object. But above the Sun, the corona reaches a million degrees Celsius whereas the surface is only about 5000°C. Investigating this mystery is one of the key scientific objectives of Solar Orbiter.

ESA Solar Orbiter Facing Sun

ESA’s Solar Orbiter. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

The images were taken on 7 March, precisely when Solar Orbiter crossed the Sun-Earth line, so the images can be compared with Earth-bound solar instruments and cross-calibrated. This will make it easier to compare results from different instruments and observatories in future.

On March 26, Solar Orbiter reaches another mission milestone: its first close perihelion. The spacecraft is now inside the orbit of Mercury, the inner planet, taking the highest resolution images of the Sun it can take. It is also recording data on the solar wind of particles that flows outwards from the Sun.

And this is just the start, over the coming years the spacecraft will repeatedly fly this close to the Sun. It will also gradually raise its orientation to view the Sun’s previously unobserved polar regions.

Solar Orbiter is a space mission of international collaboration between ESA and NASA.

13 Comments on "Solar Orbiter Spacecraft Captures the Full Sun in Unprecedented Detail"

  1. Babu G. Ranganathan | March 27, 2022 at 8:12 am | Reply

    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. Bible/Biology)


    Although I am a conservative Christian (Reformed Baptist), I no longer believe that the Bible teaches or supports the traditional view of hell with its doctrine of eternal torment or suffering.

    The Bible does teach eternal punishment, but that eternal punishment is not eternal suffering.

    God’s righteous wrath is not an end in itself but a means to an end, that end being the eternal destruction of the wicked. That’s why the Bible teaches in Romans 9:22 that the wicked are “vessels of wrath (the means) fitted for destruction (the end).

    The Old Testament says, in Jeremiah 17:27, that when God comes in judgment upon Israel the gates and palaces of Jerusalem will burn and the fire will “not be quenched.” Ezekiel 20:47 says every green tree and dry tree will burn and the fire will “not be quenched.” Are any of these things still burning? Of course not! Then, why does God say that the fire will “not be quenched?”

    When Scripture talks about unquenchable fire, what it means is that the process of destruction is unstoppable. The Bible records judgments of God where His wrath was quenched (or stopped) such as in the case when Moses interceded and pleaded before God for the rebellious Israelites in the desert. God in His wrath sent a plague to kill the rebellious Israelites. Moses came between the dead and the living (Numbers 16:48). When Moses did this, God quenched His wrath. “Unquenchable fire,” then, simply means that God won’t stop (or quench) His wrath until it’s finished its job of total destruction.

    Won’t the wicked suffer forever in hell? The word “forever,” in Scripture, doesn’t always mean eternity. For example, in Exodus 21:6 (KJV) we read that certain people volunteered to be servants “forever.” Obviously this cannot mean eternity. The word “forever” (or “everlasting”), in Scripture, simply means the entire duration of something. If that something is immortal then the word “forever” must mean eternity. But, if that something is mortal then the word “forever” cannot mean eternity. The Bible teaches that only the righteous in Christ will inherit immortality. Those in hell won’t be immortal so their suffering cannot be eternal.

    When the Bible talks about eternal punishment, eternal judgment, eternal damnation, eternal destruction, or even eternal redemption, it is in reference to the result, not the process! It is not the destroying that’s eternal, but the destruction! When the Bible talks about eternal judgment, it is not the “judging” that’s eternal but the judgment. When the Bible talks about eternal redemption, it is not the “redeeming” that is eternal but the redemption.

    What about “eternal fire” in the Bible? Scripture says in Jude 7 that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by eternal fire. These cities are no longer burning still. How can the fire be called “eternal” then? Because the result that the fire produced is eternal — these cities will never exist again.

    Most Christians believe (wrongly) that God was referring to spiritual death when He told Adam and Eve they would die upon eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. They think this because God told Adam and Eve they would die the very day they ate it, but because Adam and Eve didn’t physically die the very day they ate the forbidden fruit, most Christians assume that God was to referring to spiritual death and not physical death.

    However, in the original Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word for “die” in Genesis 2:17 is in the imperfect mood. The imperfect mood denotes a process. So, what God really told Adam and Eve is that they would start dying. God wasn’t referring to spiritual death but to physical death. After their disobedience, God later prevented Adam and Eve from having access to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22–24) so that they would not live eternally. This is proof that God was referring to physical death in Genesis 2:17.

    All this proves that God will not allow sinful humans to be immortal. God will not let sin exist eternally by keeping sinners alive eternally in hell. God will bring an eternal end to sin and sinner in hell. That is His eternal justice, not eternal torment! God is just, but not cruel.

    Immortality is not a birthright. Just because man is created in God’s image doesn’t mean man must possess everything God possesses. Immortality is a gift from God available only through Jesus Christ, God’s eternal and only begotten Son, Who paid for our sins through His death and His shed blood on the Cross and Who rose bodily from the grave. Scripture says, Jesus Christ “hath destroyed death and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).

    ETERNAL LIFE in Scripture has the same meaning as immortality (i.e. Romans 2:7) which Christians will possess only in the future on Resurrection Day. Romans 2:7 and various other Scripture passages teach immortality and eternal life to be a future possession for Christians. Why then did Jesus use the present tense when saying those who believe in Him have eternal life? The answer is that sometimes in the Bible the present tense is used to describe future events for the purpose of demonstrating their certainty. Scripture says God “calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Romans 4:17).

    The Bible says Jesus Christ “hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). The opposite of eternal life (or immortality) is eternal death (the eternal literal death of soul and body) – not eternally living in torment and suffering! “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting (eternal) life” (John 3:16). The issue is not what we think eternal punishment ought to be. The issues are God’s character, God’s definition of ultimate justice, and God’s eternal purposes.

    This view is known as “conditional immortality” because immortality is only given by God to those meet the condition of having faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

    How did the belief and teaching of eternal torment enter into Christianity? When the early Church adopted the belief, from Greek philosophy, that the human soul is immortal (indestructible), then it became only logical to believe that those who go to hell must suffer eternally.

    The wicked in hell will suffer, in varying degrees, for their individual sins, but the ultimate penalty for sin itself will be the eternal death of their soul and body and their eternal loss to immortality. That is their eternal punishment — their eternal loss to immortality. God’s wrath is not an end in itself but a means to an end, that end being eternal destruction.

    What I am sharing is not new. Good Christian men, across denominations, over the centuries held to the view I am espousing, including the great Christian hymn writer Isaac Watts, author of “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross.”

    You will find Biblical answers to more questions by reading the author’s larger Internet article: TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS
    Read the author’s Internet article, EARLY CHRISTIANITY BEFORE THE PAPACY

    Visit the author’s newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

    *The author, Babu G. Ranganathan, has his bachelor’s degree with concentrations in Bible and Biology and has been recognized for his writings on religion and science in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East.”

    • You mistake your personal faith-based beliefs for some kind of general truth. Beliefs like yours are only relevant to like believers. To others, it’s just irrelevant dogma that takes up space and makes you look foolish.

  2. Leaving extended irrelevant comments pertaining to a completely unrelated topic is a waste of everyone’s energy and likely not appreciated by most visitors to this web site. This kind of “evangelization” is not required by anyone’s personal belief system.

    Great photos here! And today is SUNDAY!

  3. Babu G. Ranganathan is spam wrapped around religion searching for an audience.Don’t answer the door when they knock.

  4. I love helioseismology, the study of the Sun using sound waves. There are visible ripples flowing through the outer layers of the Sun’s atmosphere. They act similarly to seismic waves here on Earth.

  5. Oh, uh, PuLEESE keep your primitive superstitious to your self. Most of us don’t need your Mind Virus in our lives.

  6. Very Interesting.

    Initial Thoughts.

    1.Sun Gives us us Light and Heat.

    2. Ultra Violet methodolgy at 17 nanometers gives us information related to wwhat the sun looks like from “halfway their” and has been disclosed above.

    3. Mostltly relatted to Light end of the spectrum and the structure. At sunrise, try to caputure the image of the sun using your Camera Phone!. I tried yesterday. Seems like trying to catch a HEN!. Need highly specialised equipent.

    3. Maybe, just maybe, the WEBB telescope may shed some light to the Heat (Infra-Red) end of the spectrum from Lagarange Point 5.

    4, The synthesis of all known elements (118) probably occurs at very high temperatures and pressures in the Suns Internal environment.Determining the same theoritically would be a interesting exercises. I suspect Pressure and Temperature are interchangeable.

    5. Can’t figure ot what could be causing high pressures in the suns internal environment. Probably Hydrogen in its Gaseos Avatar? Fgure out what is driving coronoal expulson and sollar
    falres, storms etc. Temperatures alone cannot be the answer to the activity happenning in the Sun (Our own Start in the Sky!).

    Views expressed are personal and not binding on anyone.

  7. Colin the uneducated | March 27, 2022 at 5:17 pm | Reply

    One(me) wonders if the internal pressure within the Sun stunts or compresses the heat and burning, so that once released beyond the surface, it’s true heat is released.
    Another thought from a very uneducated individual, is that perhaps there’s something off the surface that allows the “fire” to burn hotter, not unlike pumping more and more oxygen into a blacksmith furnace.

  8. I believe gods 8s maker people up for their life feel good and enjoying their selfish and Heroes . Church maker Thier mind up about Christ for Xmas and Easter day is wonderful b.c have bad time and old age .
    Luke B

  9. Habibur Rehman | March 27, 2022 at 11:30 pm | Reply

    The main problem of common people is that every Christian on this earth has his own Bible suitable for him.

  10. lehighjeepguy | March 29, 2022 at 2:45 pm | Reply

    The images are reminiscent of those from a few years ago. Nothing really new and compelling.

    I don’t think the James Webb can look at our sun without being damaged, what’s why if sits on a solar shield, in the shadow of our planet. The James Webb doesn’t even have a camera on it (for many reasons- ((a flash would be needed being one)) because a flash would be too bright and intense and would damage the sensitive equipment.

  11. “The final image contains more than 83 million pixels in a 9148 x 9112 pixel grid. For comparison, this image has a resolution that is ten times better than what a 4K TV screen can display.”

    Actually, a 9148 x 9112 image is 4.22 times the resolution of a 3840 x 2160 image.

    (9112 divided by 2160) = 4.22

    Resolution is NOT determined by total pixel count (which is how this article came up with the “ten times” error). This is a common misconception that should be stamped out.

    With images of the same aspect ratio, it requires 4 times the pixels to double resolution (not 2 times).

    With images of differing aspect ratios (as in the sun photo and 4K), you divide the shortest sides.

  12. Religion is not an issue you people are, bunch of miserable humans will tell me this SUN exists on its own and there is no creator of this universe? I suggest you dummies to start wishing for death, you will find out.

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