Snapshot: A large, bright solar explosion taken into action
The Sun shone magnificent solar rays millions of miles into space earlier this month – an event ranked as the largest such burst ever photographed that also captures a full view of the solar disk.
On February 15, the ESA/NASA solar orbiter recorded the huge prominence erupting from the Sun’s corona. Defined by its dense plasma loops tangled in a turbulent network of magnetic field lines just above the Sun’s surface, the eruption did not threaten satellites or Earth’s power grid.
Aboard the Solar Orbiter is the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, which includes the Full Sun Imager that captured this historic event. On March 26, the orbiter will make its closest approach to the Sun to date, equal to 0.3 times the Sun-Earth distance, or 2.2 million miles (3.5 million kilometers), giving it a much closer view of the disk of our host star.
Other space instruments have also noticed this month’s huge solar disturbance. One such viewer was the ESA/NASA SOHO satellite, which sees the Sun at greater distances and could provide complementary images of the incident. The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission, currently located much closer to Mercury, observed a jump of protons, electrons and ions with its radiation monitor.
Fortunately, the eruption was not directed towards Earth, but rather in the opposite direction. This is important because such a powerful solar outburst directed at Earth could have been detrimental to civilization in many ways.
While the idea of the Sun being the downfall of society is daunting, the ESA is launching Vigil in the next few years to monitor dangerous solar storms and activity.