Solar Phenomenon Finally Captured on Camera

Sep 21, 2022 | Daily Space, Spacecraft, The Sun

Solar Phenomenon Finally Captured on Camera
IMAGE: The Sun as seen by the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft on 25 March 2022, one day before its closest approach of about 0.32 au, which brought it inside the orbit of planet Mercury. The Metis image has been processed to bring out structures in the corona. This revealed the switchback (the prominent white/light blue feature at the roughly 8 o’clock position in the lower left). It appears to trace back to the active region on the surface of the Sun. CREDIT: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI & Metis Teams and D. Telloni et al. (2022)

The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter captured its first image of a “solar magnetic switchback”. Solar Orbiter was designed to observe the Sun from a distance working in combination with NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which will get as close as possible with current technology. Solar Orbiter studies the corona and solar wind, and over years of Venus gravity assists, will change its orbit to explore the Sun’s poles as well.

A magnetic switchback is the “sudden reversal of the solar wind’s magnetic field”. It presents as an S-shaped bend of plasma. Such events may be part of the reason the solar wind spreads far into the solar system and affects interplanetary space. According to paper first author Luca Sorriso-Valvo, magnetic switchbacks “have been measured in situ [by spacecraft] for but still poorly understood. We hope to be able to observe other similar structures soon to unveil their nature”.

The work was published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

More Information

ESA press release

Observation of a Magnetic Switchback in the Solar Corona,” Daniele Telloni et al., 2022 September 12, The Astrophysical Journal Letters

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