Sun Has Many Campfires that Are Micro and Nano Solar Flares

The Solar Orbiter flew within 48 million miles of the Sun and took the closest pictures of the Sun to date. Other spacecraft have been closer, but none have carried Sun-facing imagers.

Solar Orbiter carries six imaging instruments, each of which studies a different aspect of the Sun. Normally, the first images from a spacecraft confirm the instruments are working; scientists don’t expect new discoveries from them. But the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager, or EUI, on Solar Orbiter returned data hinting at solar features never observed in such detail.

Principal investigator David Berghmans, an astrophysicist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, points out what he calls “campfires” dotting the Sun in EUI’s images.

“The campfires we are talking about here are the little nephews of solar flares, at least a million, perhaps a billion times smaller,” Berghmans said. “When looking at the new high-resolution EUI images, they are literally everywhere we look.”

It’s possible they are mini-explosions known as nanoflares – tiny but ubiquitous sparks theorized to help heat the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, to its temperature 300 times hotter than the solar surface.

Written By Brian Wang,

18 thoughts on “Sun Has Many Campfires that Are Micro and Nano Solar Flares”

  1. Dan DID talk about light coming in via reflection or diffraction, and I agree this should be interpreted as visible light.
    But you are missing the point.
    The description Dan gave is of a cylinder with the long axis facing away from the sun, and the (relatively) small end cap of the cylinder exposed to direct solar radiation of any time, including all those high energy particles.
    Dan then mentioned that this (relatively) small end cap of the cylinder can be made thick enough to block any direct radiation.
    That way the only route the radiation, of any sort, can travel along to get into the inhabited area is if it was reflected and diffracted in the same way as the light.
    Such systems set up to redirect the light could be
    –tuned for only some wavelengths, so that high energy stuff does not get directed to the habitats
    — be moveable so that the redirection function can be shut down during a solar storm. This would probably be designed so the inhabitants can have a dark night period each 24 hours, but you would be able to implement it in an emergency.

  2. “That’s not what Dan said. Read it again.”

    Come now… That’s a lame response that’s unbecoming of a generally good mind such as yours.

    “The usu design is a cylinder with one end towards the Sun, and light coming in thru reflection or diffraction from indirect route.”

    The word “light” colloquially refers to visible light, and without mention of a specific spectrum of electromagnetic energy, I can assume nothing more than visible light.

  3. I wonder why the comment system displays 14 comments when sorted by “best”, but only 11 comments when sorted by “oldest”. That seems to imply a rather odd definition of the verb “to sort”. (In both cases, I did click on all the little links to show the replies that were not initially displayed.)

  4. I said “light”, not “visible light”. The SME takes longer to get there, and can be defended against. You should start thinking before you write!

  5. Light?

    You think light is the biggest threat of a solar flare?

    You do realize that visible light is just a narrow band of the EM spectrum, and the electromagnetic energy from a solar flare is far wider than visible light.

    I haven’t even addressed the mass that’s also ejected in a solar flare.

  6. Apparently, about the size of California, compared to the disk-of-the-Earth. Go look up the NASA article, and there you’ll see a full-sized image demonstrating my measurements. I point you to

    Look down at the article headed by “Unraveling”. The static image has in the lower-left corner a circle representing the scale-size of the Earth’s disk. PRETTY BIG campfires!

  7. I always wish that when they release these zoomed-in images, they include a scale in the image. Like how large are those “campfires”? Are we finally getting to the level of seeing Earth-continent-sized features on the sun? or are those campfires still massive? It’d be cool to see a little overlay of the outline of Asia on the image or something.

    Maybe if we get to that high a level of resolution over the entire sun body for a long enough period of time, eventually we’d be able to tease out “weather” patterns/currents on the sun, especially once the orbiter gets into more of a polar orbit.

  8. The usu design is a cylinder with one end towards the Sun, and light coming in thru reflection or diffraction from indirect route. This end is small compared to the interior area of the settlement, so can have extra protection far greater than planet surface, Earth or Mars. Also, many Settlements will be far out, less prone to flare damage. If only these survive, it is still a big win.

  9. Honestly, I am not really sure an O’Neill colony is actually more robust against mega-flares than a planet. Planets do, after all, have a lot of thermal inertia and radiation shielding.

  10. Trouble with that true thing is that biggie flares are certain, over time. Hope some of our biosphere is in O’Neill Settlements before then!

  11. I can’t decide if I should upvote or downvote your comment. I don’t want to seem as if I’m raising my hand, but I sure like your comment.

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