NASA on Monday released the footage of the ‘first-ever solar eruption’ which was captured by its new Sun-watching spacecraft called the solar and heliospheric imager (SoloHI) instrument. The ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter mission was launched in February 2020, to capture the density fluctuations in the universe’s inner heliosphere. It is tasked with observing visible sunlight scattered by electrons in the solar wind associated with dynamic events such as coronal mass ejections, caused due to the solar winds. On May 17, NASA’s Solar Orbiter caught sight of this coronal mass ejection or CME.
In the footage captured by NASA’s Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager, which appears to be monochrome and grainy, a sudden blast of particles can be seen escaping the Sun, which NASA explained spattered off the camera to the upper right. “The CME starts about halfway through the video as a bright burst – the dense leading edge of the CME – and drifts off-screen to the left,” it further explained in a statement released Monday. It described the CME in the video as what appears to be a “sudden gust of white that expands into the solar wind.” NASA stated, that the video used several images, which were compiled into the visual by subtracting the pixels of the previous image from the current image to highlight changes.
“The missing spot in the image on the far right is an overexposed area where light from the spacecraft solar array is reflected into SoloHI’s view. The little black and white boxes that blip into view are telemetry blocks – an artifact from compressing the image and sending it back down to Earth,” the space agency explained about the video that it shared.
NASA says visuals ‘a happy accident’
Calling the visuals “a happy accident” that was captured on SoloHI, NASA said that at the time when the sun’s eruption flared so far till the spacecraft, Solar Orbiter had navigated behind the Sun, as can be explained from the Earth’s perspective. The instrument was then coming behind the phenomenon that was occurring. “Team wasn’t expecting to be able to record any data during that time,” said NASA. A principal investigator for SoloHI at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, similarly said that since the administration’s mission the ground stations and the technology have been upgraded. So we actually got more downlink time for the mission than what was originally scheduled,” he said, explaining that he had expected the instrument to have caught its first CME.
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