Solar Orbiter: These are the closest images of the Sun that we've ever seen

Last updated at 14:10
Campfires shown on surface of the sunSolar Orbiter/ESA
This image shows the solar flares or 'campfires' observed by the Solar Orbiter on its flypast

These are the closest images ever taken of the Sun and they've been released to the public for the first time.

They were taken at a distance of just over 77 million kilometres by the UK-built Solar Orbiter spacecraft in a joint mission by ESA and Nasa.

This is about half the distance the Earth is from the Sun.

Last year Nasa spacecraft Parker Solar Probe set the record for becoming the closest a manmade object has ever got to the Sun.

In these new images, miniature solar flares, labelled 'campfires' can be seen near the surface of the Sun.

Scientists aren't entirely sure what the 'campfires' are, but says it's possible they are 'nanoflares', tiny sparks which could potentially make the Sun's outer temperature up to 300 times hotter than its surface.

Images released by Solar Orbiter of the sun.Solar Orbiter/ESA

This week's images and data come from its first close pass of the Sun in mid-June

The close pass, known as a perihelion, puts the Solar Orbiter between the orbits of Venus and Mercury, the closest planets to the Sun.

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What is Solar Orbiter?
Close up image sent back by solar orbiterESA
This is a really close up image of the surface of the Sun which was sent back by the probe

These discoveries will help scientists piece together the Sun's atmospheric layers, which helps them better understand how it drives space weather events.

This is important because space weather can disrupt and damage satellites and infrastructure on Earth that our mobile phones, transport, GPS signals and the electricity networks rely on.

Dr David Long from UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, who's involved in the mission said:

"No images have been taken of the Sun at such a close distance before and the level of detail they provide is impressive.

"We are looking forward to investigating this further as Solar Orbiter gets closer to the Sun and our home star becomes more active."

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