The European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter satellite took this incredible image of the Sun, the closest photo ever taken of our star. It reveals tiny solar flares dotting the surface. The image above was captured at a distance of 77 million kilometers. From Nature:
"When the first images came in, my first thought was this is not possible, it can't be that good," David Berghmans, principal investigator for the orbiter's Extreme Ultraviolet Imager instrument, told a press briefing on 16 July. "It was much better than we dared to hope for."
"The Sun might look quiet at the first glance, but when we look in detail, we can see those miniature flares everywhere we look," said Berghams, a solar physicist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, in a statement.
The fires are millions or billions of times smaller than solar flares that can be seen from Earth, which are energetic eruptions thought to be caused by interactions within the Sun's magnetic fields. The mission team has yet to figure out whether the two phenomena are driven by the same process, but they speculate that the combined effect of the many campfires could contribute to the searing heat of the Sun's outer atmosphere, known as the corona. Why the corona is hundreds of times hotter than its surface is a longstanding mystery.