The ESA has captured a stunning image of the 4.5 billion-year-old glowing ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of our solar system we humans have named Sol, the Sun. We orbit our star some 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) distant, where, without its energy, life as we know it could not exist.
The intriguing feature in the bottom third of the ESA image, below the center, has been nicknamed the solar hedgehog. At present no one knows exactly what it is or how it formed in the sun’s atmosphere. The image was captured on 30 March 2022 by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) at a wavelength of 17 nanometres. The extreme UV camera is sensitive to the solar chromosphere and corona, the turbulent and magnetically active atmospheric layers above the solar photosphere we see at visible wavelengths.
Just days earlier, Solar Orbiter had passed through its first close perihelion. At just 32 percent the distance of the Earth from the sun, this placed the spacecraft inside the orbit of the inner planet Mercury. Being closer to the sun than any previous solar telescope has allowed EUI to take exquisitely detailed images of the solar atmosphere.
These are revealing the sun as never before, and have shown a multitude of intriguing features such as the hedgehog, which although classed as a small-scale feature still measures some 25,000 km across, making it around twice the diameter of the Earth. The gasses shown in this image have a temperature of around one million degrees. The image has been color coded because the original wavelength detected by the instrument is invisible to the human eye. Watch movies of the solar hedgehog here and here. Credit: ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI Team
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