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The Sun is ready for its close-up.

Sunny Side Up

The European Space Agency has released an incredible video of the Sun’s roiling surface, taken by its Solar Orbiter last year from a front-row vantage point.

The dynamic video shows strands of energized particles leaving the star’s lower atmosphere in the form of “coronal rain,” with small eruptions of plasma dotting a fuzzy, “coronal moss” surface — a hellish perspective that required the daring orbiter to swoop by at an extremely close distance.

Over Easy

During its September 27 descent, the Solar Orbiter’s Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) recorded the Sun’s surface from a distance of roughly a third of the distance between the Earth and the Sun (which is just over 100 times the diameter of our planet and therefore appears much larger).

The Orbiter used the opportunity to measure the solar winds emanating from the Sun, which would flow past NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shortly after, allowing scientists at the two agencies to compare notes.

The video shows massive columns of gas called spicules, which can reach heights of up to 6,200 miles. The eruption at the 22-second mark may appear tiny, but it’s still far bigger than the size of the Earth, according to the ESA.

The rain that’s visible around the 30-second mark in the form of darker, hair-like strands that almost look like a rainbow, are relatively cool, likely lower than 10,000 degrees Celsius. The brighter background is far hotter, at around a million degrees Celsius.

The Solar Orbiter has already allowed scientists to get incredibly close views of the Sun. When it comes to distance, only the Parker Solar Probe has it beat: last year, the probe managed to set the record for the closest flyby of the Sun, skimming just 4.51 million miles above its “surface.”

However, the Parker probe wasn’t primarily designed to record videos — it’s only thanks to the Solar Orbiter that we’ve been able to get such a magnificent view.

More on the Sun: Sun Blasts Comet, Breaking Off Its Tail


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