THE Solar Orbiter developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the U.S. space agency, NASA has released to the general public closest pictures ever taken of the sun.
The photos which were taken by the Orbiter, controlled by the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) located in the city of Damstzdt, Germany were described as amazing and justified the estimated cost of about 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 million) for the project.
According to ESA’s scientists, the pictures were taken halfway between the Earth and the sun, about 77 million kilometres away.
NASA project scientist for the mission at the Goddard Space Flight Center, Holly Gilbert, said, “These unprecedented pictures of the Sun are the closest we have ever obtained,
“These amazing images will help scientists piece together the Sun’s atmospheric layers, which is important for understanding how it drives space weather near the Earth and throughout the solar system.”
In his contributions, Daniel Müller, ESA’s Solar Orbiter project scientist exclaimed, “We didn’t expect such great results so early.
‘These images show that Solar Orbiter is off to an excellent start.”
The Solar Orbiter is expected to be in a so-called cruise phase until November 2021, after which it will begin the primary phase of its mission.
NASA said the spacecraft’s closest pass by the sun will be in 2022 at “about a third the distance” from the sun to Earth or 26 million miles (42 million km) to the sun’s surface, which is closer than the innermost planet Mercury.