“Solar Orbiter Achieves Unprecedented Close Proximity to Observe the Sun – ASI”

Solar Orbiter, a spacecraft that recently passed close to the Sun, has captured stunning images of the solar atmosphere with unprecedented detail. The Italian Metis coronagraph, one of the observation tools on board Solar Orbiter, played a crucial role in obtaining these images. Metis is the first tool capable of observing the solar corona simultaneously in the visible and ultraviolet bands, providing a detailed picture of the processes governing the expansion of solar plasma into interplanetary space.

The close proximity of Solar Orbiter to the Sun allowed Metis to capture images of the solar corona with remarkable clarity. These images revealed a structure consisting of long filaments and highly dynamic plasma and magnetic fields. Such observations offer new insights into the physical processes that drive solar wind acceleration and impulsive phenomena that can impact Space Weather.

Marco Romoli, from the University of Florence and principal investigator of the Metis tool, expressed excitement about the unprecedented detail captured by Solar Orbiter. He emphasized that these images provide valuable scientific data for studying the dynamic phenomena in the solar corona resulting from the interaction between magnetic fields and plasma.

This close pass by Solar Orbiter is just the beginning of a series of “visits” to the Sun. During these visits, Solar Orbiter will observe different layers of the solar atmosphere, providing crucial information for understanding solar phenomena and their effects on the space heliosphere and meteorology. The next close pass is scheduled for October 2022.

Barbara Negri from the Italian Space Agency (ASI) highlighted the scientific and technological challenge overcome in manufacturing the Metis coronagraph. She emphasized the importance of Italy’s scientific expertise and the experience of the Italian industry in achieving this success.

Marco Stangalini, also from ASI, expressed surprise at the unexpected details revealed by the images of plasma and magnetic fields captured by Solar Orbiter. He mentioned that future fly-bys with Venus will allow Solar Orbiter to observe the Sun’s poles, which are currently unexplored. Exploring these regions is expected to shed light on the physical mechanisms governing the Sun’s cycles of magnetic activity.

Silvano Fineschi from the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF), who is the principal investigator of the Italian contribution to the mission, emphasized the integration of images from Metis with those from other telescopes on Solar Orbiter. This integration allows for the identification of the origin of solar wind and storms and the tracking of their evolution in the heliosphere, which is crucial for understanding space meteorology.