NASA releases closest-ever, 'unprecedented' images of the sun from Solar Orbiter

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Thursday, July 16, 2020
Solar Orbiter's path as it studies sun, stars, planets
Video provided by the European Space Agency shows the Solar Orbiter's planned path as it studies the sun and nearby planets.

NASA scientists in conjunction with the European Space Agency (ESA) unveiled the first images captured by Solar Orbiter of the sun Thursday morning, providing awe-inspiring pictures that can hopefully bring new insight.

The Solar Orbiter was launched on Feb. 9 and turned on all 10 of its instruments together for the first time last month. Its path was the closest-ever to the sun.

The photos are available here.

This image shows the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) on ESA's Solar Orbiter spacecraft taken on May 30, 2020.
Solar Orbiter/EUI Team

"These unprecedented pictures of the sun are the closest we have ever obtained," said Holly Gilbert, NASA project scientist.

The orbiter flew within 48 million miles of the sun on June 15. Other spacecraft have been closer, but have not carried sun-facing imagers.

The ESA website says "No other images of the sun have been taken from such a close distance, enabling scientists to catch a glimpse of new, interesting phenomena." Photos include the 'campfires' on the sun's surface and the sun's corona, magnetic fields and movement.