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'Campfires' burning on surface of sun

 

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Images of the Sun taken with Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI) and Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft are seen in a combination of photographs released by NASA. Photo: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team; PHI Team/ESA & NASA/Handout via REUTERS

Images of the Sun taken with Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI) and Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft are seen in a combination of photographs released by NASA. Photo: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team; PHI Team/ESA & NASA/Handout via REUTERS

via REUTERS

Images of the Sun taken with Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (PHI) and Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft are seen in a combination of photographs released by NASA. Photo: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team; PHI Team/ESA & NASA/Handout via REUTERS

Fiery loops dubbed "campfires" have been photographed on the sun for the first time after a spacecraft transmitted the closest ever images of the star.

The Solar Orbiter probe, a joint venture between the European Space Agency and Nasa, is on a two-year mission to learn more about the nuclear furnace at the heart of our solar system, and the devastating space weather it produces that can wreak havoc on our communications systems.

The first images were taken as the probe made a close pass of 47 million miles in mid-June, and show looping flares about 500 miles wide near the surface of the sun.

The campfires may solve the mystery of why the outermost layer of the sun's atmosphere is hotter than the interior - like a fire getting hotter as you move further away.

The solar corona, which extends millions of miles into space, is more than a million degrees Celsius, while the surface of the sun is just 5,500C.

Scientists think the campfires may be related to changes in the sun's magnetic field as small fields get tangled the expand like rubber bands then tear, releasing energy and heat.

Dr David Long, a co-principal investigator, said: "The level of detail is impressive. [It shows] miniature flares across the surface of the sun, which look like campfires millions of times smaller than the solar flares that we see from Earth."

Irish Independent