Solar Orbiter built in Stevenage captures closest image of the sun

The picture is one of the closest images ever taken of the Sun
The picture is one of the closest pictures that has ever been taken of the Sun. Credit: PA

Scientists have revealed the closest images ever taken of the Sun, which was captured by a Solar Orbiter constructed in Stevenage. 

An artists impression of what the Orbiter would look like close to the sun. Credit: NASA

The orbiter, which was built by firm Airbus and blasted off from Nasa's Cape Canaveral site in Florida on February 10, took the pictures last month, which shows mini solar flares called “campsites”, dotted across its surface. 

The Solar Orbiter captures these views of the Sun Credit: NASA

Dr Caroline Harper, head of space science at the UK space agency, told PA Agency that scientists were excited by the presence of campfires that are "millions of times smaller than the solar flares"

To find out more, scientists will monitor the temperatures of these campfires using an instrument on the spacecraft known as Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment, or SPICE.

The Solar Orbiter will help scientists piece together the Sun's atmospheric layers and analyse the solar wind as well as unlock the mysteries of coronal heating.

The spacecraft will make a close approach to the Sun every five months, and at its closest will be 26 million miles away, closer than the planet Mercury.

It will use the gravitational force of Venus and Earth to adjust its trajectory, before getting into operational orbit in November 2021.

The craft captured this picture during a pass between the orbits of Venus and Mercury Credit: NASA

The Solar Orbiter has been designed to withstand the heat from the Sun that will hit one side, while maintaining freezing temperatures on the other side of the spacecraft as the orbit keeps it in shadow.

The Sun viewed by Solar Orbiter’s PHI instrument. Credit: NASA