The closest images of the sun ever taken reveal ‘campfire’ flares

Thursday, July 16, 2020 - 07:20 in Astronomy & Space

Get out the marshmallows and toasting sticks. The closest images yet taken of the sun show tiny flares dubbed “campfires,” astronomers announced in a news conference on July 16. The images are the first from Solar Orbiter, a new sun-watching spacecraft that’s a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency. These never-before-seen campfire flares are “little relatives” of larger solar flares (SN: 9/11/17), powerful magnetic outbursts that shoot bright spurts of radiation into space, said David Berghmans of the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels in a news release. Campfire flares are a million to a billion times as small as typical solar flares. It’s not clear yet whether the flickers are just scaled-down flares, or if the two phenomena have different driving mechanisms. Solar physicists think campfires could help explain one of the biggest solar mysteries: why the solar corona, the sun’s wispy outer atmosphere, is millions of degrees hotter...

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