The NASA Solar Orbiter has created history after capturing the largest-ever solar eruption on camera. See how a solar storm brews.
The Solar Orbiter satellite has created history for NASA. On February 15, the Solar Orbiter took unprecedented images of a solar prominence or solar eruption that was millions of kilometres long. It is seen as string of fire attached to the Sun. The Solar Orbiter is a joint mission between NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) designed to obtain detailed information about the Sun and this time, it really hit the jackpot! This super-massive event called solar prominence is important not simply because it is an awesome spectacle, but also because it often results in the creation of highly-destructive coronal mass ejections (CME), which are a major cause of solar storms that hold massive destructive potential for Earth. This historic image is what would be considered as the building stage of a solar storm. It will also help scientists understand how a solar storm is created.
Solar prominence are essentially gaseous clouds above the surface of the Sun’s magnetic field. In the image captured, the Solar Orbiter witnessed a solar eruption bursting out of the Sun’s atmosphere and spreading millions of miles into space. Notably, this could have caused a gigantic solar storm on Earth but thankfully, it occurred on the far side of the Sun and not towards our planet. Therefore, there is no chance that the solar storm generated by this solar eruption will hit Earth. However, if the Sun had sent a solar storm of this magnitude towards Earth, it could potentially have caused major damage to satellites, Internet and electricity grids.
The Solar Orbiter does a historic first
“Other space telescopes such as the ESA/NASA SOHO [Solar and Heliospheric Observatory] satellite frequently see solar activity like this, but either closer to the sun, or further out by means of an occulter, which blocks out the glare of the sun’s disk to enable detailed imagery of the corona itself,” said the ESA.
“Thus, the prominence observed by Solar Orbiter is the largest ever event of its kind to be captured in a single field of view together with the solar disk, opening up new possibilities to see how events like these connect to the solar disk for the first time. At the same time, SOHO can provide complementary views to even larger distances,” the European Space agency added.
This particular solar prominence reached out up to 3.5 million kilometers, which has never been observed before. This new discovery for both NASA and ESA will open further studies into solar storms and geomagnetic storms. Solar Orbiter was launched in February 2020 and it started its mission in November 2021.
Solar Orbiter’s next close approach of the Sun will be on March 26, when it will be passing within 150 million kilometers of it, which will be another first.