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Spacecraft captures closest images ever taken of the Sun

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Solar Orbiter has made its first close pass by the Sun and what it captured has amazed scientists.

New photos of the Sun taken 77 kilometres from the star's surface are the closet images ever snapped of the fiery celestial body.

The pictures were taken by the Solar Orbiter, a probe that was launched in February as a joint venture between the European Space Agency and NASA.

Taking to Twitter, NASA said the probe is already revealing "previously unseen details" of the star, including mini solar-flares called "campfires".

READ MORE: Satellite to take closest ever photo of Sun

The arrow indicates a small "campfire" with the scale of the Earth marked in the lower left corner. (Image credit: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team/ESA & NASA; CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL)

The campfires are "million or billions" of times smaller than the giant solar flares often seen by Earth's telescopes.

The smaller flares could, in part, explain why the Sun's outer atmosphere, the corona, is much hotter than its surface; a fact that has perplexed scientists for years.

"The Sun has a relatively cool surface of about 5500 degrees and is surrounded by a super-hot atmosphere of more than a million degrees," explained Esa project scientist Daniel Müller, according to the BBC.

"There's a theory put forward by the great US physicist Eugene Parker, who conjectured that if you should have a vast number of tiny flares this might account for an omnipresent heating mechanism that could make the corona hot."

This full size view of the sun was taken by the Solar Orbiter on May 30, 2020. (Image credit: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL)

Earlier this month the fiery nature of the Sun was laid bare in an incredible time-lapse video released by NASA.

Each second of the video represents a day in the Sun's 4.6-billion-year life.

Source: 9News

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