83 million pixels! This is the highest resolution image of the solar disk and its corona ever taken. We owe this to the Solar Orbiter probe of the European Space Agency (ESA), equipped with six telescopes. The device, launched in February 2020, is not the first attempt and has already provided the closest images of our star, taken at a distance of 75 million kilometers. They made it possible to reveal the presence of “bonfires” on the surface, the origin and mechanism of formation of which still raise questions among scientists.
Ten times the resolution of a 4K screen
The new images released by the ESA are dated March 7, 2022 and were recorded when Solar Orbiter was halfway between the Earth and the Sun, approximately 75 million kilometers. They were taken with the EUI (“Extreme Ultraviolet Imager”) instrument, which has such a resolution that it took 25 images to cover the entire surface of the Sun, which took almost 4 hours with an exposure time of 10 minutes per image. In total, the final image contains over 83 million pixels in a 9148 x 9112 pixel grid. By comparison, this image has ten times the resolution of a 4K TV screen.
High resolution image of the Sun taken by the Solar Orbiter on March 7, 2022 (click on it to download in HD). Image Credit & Copyright: ESA and NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI team; Data Processing: E. Kraeikamp (ROB).
The images taken by the EUI instrument correspond to the extreme ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum and show the upper part of the Sun’s atmosphere. Another instrument, SPICE, has been used to probe the Sun from the corona to the chromosphere closer to the surface. To do this, the instrument examines different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light coming from different atoms.