BBC Science Focus
Solar Orbiter captures closest-ever pictures of the Sun
ESA’s Solar Orbiter probe photographs our star from a distance of just 77,000,000km
In February this year, the Solar Orbiter craft was launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. With six remote-sensing telescopes and four in-situ instruments, the probe is on a mission to image and monitor the Sun and its surrounding environment. Led by the European Space Agency (ESA) and aided by NASA, the project soon encountered a number of challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, in mid-June the team announced that the probe was ready to start performing science, and it’s already delivering the goods. In mid-July, ESA released this set of images from a distance of 77 million kilometres from the Sun – the closestever photographs of our star. The probe is now in its cruise phase and will continue travelling towards the Sun. In late 2021, it will get as close as 42 million kilometres, when the main part of the mission will proceed.