New Close-Up Video Shows Sun’s ‘Fluffy’ Corona in Extreme Detail

The European Space Agency (ESA) published a new video captured from its Solar Orbiter that provides an up-close, detailed look at the Sun’s corona.

The video shows the transition of the Sun’s lower atmosphere to the outer corona, which is much hotter. The ESA describes the “hair-like” structure of the lower atmosphere as “fluffy,” although they have little in common with actual hair: they’re made up of charged gas (plasma) and the bright areas that appear as white in the video are around one million degrees Celsius.

While the video was only shared today, it was actually captured last year.

“This video was recorded on September 27, 2023, by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) instrument on Solar Orbiter. At the time, the spacecraft was at roughly a third of the Earth’s distance from the Sun, heading for a closest approach of 43 million km on October 7,” the ESA explains.

The 47-second video clip has a few spots worth taking a closer look at. In the lower left-hand corner, for example, is a great example of what is known as “coronal moss,” which is the lace-like structure created by bright hot gas. This feature, the ESA explains, is usually seen around the base of large coronal loops that are too hot or too slight to be seen without specific instruments.

Looking up towards the solar horizon are what are called spicules, or spires of gas, which reach up and out into the Sun’s chromosphere and can get as tall as 10,000 kilometers high.

22 seconds into the clip, a small eruption can be seen in the center of the frame. It may look small in the video, but this single explosion is larger than Earth.

Finally, 30 seconds in, what is known as coronal rain is visible to the center-left in the frame, which is “cool” by Sun standards at likely less than 10,000 degrees Celsius. The ESA says that it is made of higher-density clumps of plasma that fall back into the sun due to its gravity.

September 27 was a busy day for Sun observation. The ESA says that the same day it captured this footage, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe came extremely close to the sun — 7.26 million kilometers — where it measured particles and the magnetic field in the Sun’s corona as well as took measurements of the solar wind.

“This was a perfect opportunity for the two missions to team up, with ESA-led Solar Orbiter’s remote-sensing instruments observing the source region of the solar wind that would subsequently flow past Parker Solar Probe,” the ESA says.

Image credits: ESA