A sequence of images from the Solar Orbiter’s Extreme UItraviolet Imager shows multiple small flares across the Sun’s surface that may help explain the mechanism that heats the solar corona. Image: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL
The ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter’s first images, unveiled 16 July, provide a spectacular new look at the Sun, including surprising views of small flare-like blazes dubbed “campfires” that may provide at least some of the energy powering the star’s million-degree corona.
Daniel Müller, Solar Orbiter project scientist with the European Space Agency, said it’s too early to draw conclusions but “there is the possibility that what we see here … could contribute significantly” to heating the Sun’s outer atmosphere.
The American physicist Eugene Parker theorised in 1987 that a sea of small, magnetically powered “nanoflares” could be the mechanism that heats up the corona to such high temperatures.
While the new data do not yet resolve the issue, “our conjecture is these campfires … are related to changes in the Sun’s magnetic field, a process known as magnetic reconnection,” Müller said during a news briefing. “We believe that even though it’s the ‘quiet’ Sun, and there are only ...