Giant solar eruption seen by Solar Orbiter – The ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft has captured the largest solar prominence eruption ever observed in a single image together with the full solar disc

Solar prominences are large structures of tangled magnetic field lines that keep dense concentrations of solar plasma suspended above the Sun’s surface, sometimes taking the form of arching loops. They are often associated with coronal mass ejections, which if directed towards Earth, can wreak havoc with our technology and everyday lives.

This latest event took place on February 15, 2022, and extended millions of kilometres into space. The coronal mass ejection was not directed at Earth. In fact, it is travelling away from us. There is no signature of the eruption on the solar disc facing the spacecraft – which is currently approaching the Earth-Sun line – meaning that it must have originated from the side of the Sun facing away from us.

The imagery was captured by the ‘Full Sun Imager’ (FSI) of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) on Solar Orbiter. FSI is designed to look at the full solar disc even during close passages of the Sun, such as during the upcoming perihelion passage next month. At closest approach on 26 March, which will see the spacecraft pass within about 0.3 times the Sun-Earth distance, the Sun will fill a much larger portion of the telescope’s field of view. Right now, there is still a lot of ‘viewing margin’ around the disc, enabling stunning detail to be captured by FSI out to about 3.5 million kilometres, equivalent to five times the radius of the Sun.

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