Glow up

Look: ESA captures remarkable images of a “hedgehog” structure on the Sun

A hedgehog on the Sun? It’s more likely than you think.

Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL

NASA/ESA

Staring into the Sun is dangerous — unless you’re an orbiter full of metals and coated in a layer of protective calcium phosphate.

ESA

For ESA’s Solar Orbiter, getting blasted by the Sun’s energy is no sweat.

And the orbiter’s ability to get up close and personal is giving us a new view of our home star’s surface.

At the end of March, Solar Orbiter had a close encounter with the Sun as it cruised within Mercury’s orbit.

NASA/SDO

This week, the European Space Agency released a trove of new videos and photos from that encounter, including the sharpest view ever captured of the Sun’s south pole.

Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL

NASA/SDO

Much of the Sun’s energy is emitted at wavelengths invisible to the human eye.

But researchers are able to color code features on the Sun using Solar Orbiter’s data in order to give us an accurate representation of what the surface looks like.

Here is the Sun’s South Pole, glowing in all its glory.

ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI Team

Solar Orbiter also got an up-close look at a solar flare at the beginning of March.

NASA/SDO

This view shows the flare rising from the Sun’s surface, with its hottest emissions in blue.

ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI & STIX Teams

The lowest-energy X-rays are represented in red.

Shutterstock

Solar Orbiter also captured a strange phenomenon new to science, nicknamed a solar hedgehog.

See those spikes below the center, which appear similar to a hedgehog’s?

ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI Team

ESA & NASA/Solar Orbiter/EUI Team

Researchers aren’t sure what exactly the hedgehog is or how it formed.

But they do know that it’s about 25,000 km wide and comprised of gasses that reach one million degrees Celcius.

And as Solar Orbiter continues to capture unprecedented views of our closest star, it’s sure to reveal even more mysteries.