The Sun just burped out an explosive space weather event — Look


The Sun doesn’t just account for much of Earth’s weather reports. It also causes space weather like solar flares and storms. These chaotic events can affect us all the way on Earth.

Eruptions of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun — coronal mass ejections (CME) — can disrupt power grids on Earth, and even pose a danger to astronauts in space.

The European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar Orbiter is on a seven-year mission to study the Sun’s activity, using an array of instruments that collect different forms of data.

Solar Orbiter’s main mission doesn’t begin until November 2021, but in February it made a chance observation: a coronal mass ejection.


Because Solar Orbiter was on the other side of the Sun from Earth, it’s taken until now to receive and analyze the data it sent back home.

ESA/ATG medialab

Here’s what Solar Orbiter’s instruments beamed back from space:

The Extreme Ultraviolet Imager captured the Sun’s corona in an ultraviolet wavelength.

Solar Orbiter/EUI Team/ESA & NASA

The Metis coronagraph blocks the Sun to show the corona in visible light (left) and UV (right).

Solar Orbiter/Metis Team

NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft captured a coronagraph view from another angle.


A “running difference” view from Metis shows only what changes from one image to the next for a better sense of the CME’s motion.

Solar Orbiter/Metis Team

With only one of its four detectors online, Solar Orbiter’s Heliospheric Imager captured a portion of the CME’s solar wind.

Solar Orbiter/SoloHI team/ESA & NASA

Remote imagers Proba-2 and SOHO saw the CME from the Earth side of the Sun.

ESA/Royal Observatory of Belgium; SOHO (ESA & NASA)

This multi-instrument view shows the Solar Orbiter’s total picture of the CME.

Solar Orbiter/EUI Team/Metis Team/SoloHI team/ESA & NASA

Aside from surprise solar eruptions, Solar Orbiter is expected to record the first images of the Sun’s polar regions. Only time will tell if they live up to the mission’s auspicious start.

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