A solar probe launched by the European Space Agency in 2020 made its first approach to the Sun, capturing the chaotic encounter in dazzling detail. ESA’s Solar Orbiter entered orbit of Mercury, the planet closest to our sun, on March 26. Encounters like this are known as perihelion, when a planet is closest to the life-giving Sun. However, one of the greatest challenges for a spacecraft reaching perihelion is to withstand the incredible heat. When Solar Orbiter reached this point, it was exposed to temperatures of up to 500 degrees Celsius, but its heat shield protected it.
The probe is expected to conduct more such encounters in the future when the temperature is expected to get even hotter. But a major benefit of perihelions is that they allow us to see the sun as we’ve never seen it before. During its encounter with the Sun, ESA’s orbiter captured powerful flares, stunning views over the Sun’s poles and a mysterious but spectacular solar ‘hedgehog’. All of this was made possible with the help of 10 scientific instruments on board Solar Orbiter working closely together.
“The images are truly stunning,” said David Berghmans of the Royal Observatory of Belgium in an ESA statement. “Even if Solar Obiter stopped collecting data tomorrow, I’d be busy figuring out all these things for years,” Berghmans added.
Scientists hope these observations will provide important data to understand the Sun’s behavior, including its chaotic magnetic fields and solar emissions. So far, we’ve had limited success studying the sun’s poles, which may hold the key to understanding the sun’s magnetic fields.
The enigmatic solar “hedgehog” is another enigma in the mix. Scientists aren’t sure what it is or how it’s formed. The hedgehog consists of a relatively small region, about 25,000 km in diameter. It has a multitude of hot and cold gas spikes going in all directions.
https://gadgets360.com/science/news/esa-solar-orbiter-ventures-mercury-orbit-closer-look-sun-capture-mesmerising-images-2992599 ESA’s Solar Orbiter ventures into Mercury’s orbit to get a closer look at the Sun and captures stunning images