A probe captures a giant eruption on the other side of the Sun: 3 million kilometers high

Solar Orbiter captured the largest ever observed solar flare in a single image. The phenomenon was observed by multiple space missions.


The NASA / ESA Solar Orbiter spacecraft has captured  the largest solar prominence flare ever observed in a single image along with the entire solar disk.

Solar prominences are large structures of entangled magnetic field lines that keep dense concentrations of solar plasma suspended above the Sun ‘s surface , sometimes taking the form of arcuate loops. They are often associated with coronal mass ejections which, if directed towards Earth, can wreak havoc on our technology and our daily lives.

This last event took place on February 15 and extended millions of kilometers into space. The coronal mass ejection was not directed at Earth. In fact, he is moving away from us. There is no signature of the flare on the solar disk facing the spacecraft, which is currently approaching the Earth- Sun line , meaning it must have originated on the side of the Sun facing away from us.

Observed by multiple missions

The images were captured by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager’s (EUI) ‘Full Sun Imager’ (FSI) on Solar Orbiter . FSI is designed to look at the entire solar disk even during close passages of the Sun , such as during the next perihelion passage next month, the ESA reports.

At its closest approach on March 26, in which the spacecraft will pass to a distance of about 0.3 times the distance between the Sun and Earth, the Sun will fill a much larger portion of the telescope’s field of view. At this time, there is still a large amount of “viewing margin” around the disk, allowing FSI to capture stunning detail out to about 3.5 million km, equivalent to five times the radius of the Sun.

Other space telescopes, such as the ESA / NASA SOHO satellite , often see solar activity like this, but closer to the Sun or further away by means of an occulter, which blocks glare from the Sun’s disk to allow detailed images of the corona. itself. Therefore, the prominence observed by Solar Orbiter is the largest event of its kind captured in a single field of view along with the solar disk, opening up new possibilities for seeing how events like these connect with the solar disk for the first time. time. At the same time, SOHO can provide complementary views at even greater distances.

Other space missions also observed the event, including NASA ‘s Parker Solar Probe . Next week, Solar Orbiter and Parker Solar Probe will conduct dedicated joint observations during Parker’s perihelion passage.

Even spacecraft not dedicated to solar science felt its explosion: the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission , currently in the vicinity of Mercury’s orbit, detected a massive increase in readings of electrons, protons and heavy ions with its radiation monitor. .

And while this event didn’t send a burst of deadly particles toward Earth, it is an important reminder of the Sun’s unpredictable nature and the importance of understanding and monitoring its behavior. Together with Vigil, ESA ‘s future dedicated space weather mission , which will provide unique views of events like these, we can better protect our home planet from violent outbursts from the Sun. (Europa Press)