Have you ever seen videos of people taking selfies of themselves daily over the course of years or even decades? Now the sun has started its own series of images – with 366 complete images from 2020 captured by the European Space Agency's Proba-2 satellite.
There are some interesting things to note in the pictures. The first and most obvious is the fact that the satellite experienced two partial solar eclipses on June 21 and December 14. In the pictures, this phenomenon makes the sun look as if the cookie monster had held it for a day.
Animated compilation of the images from Proba-2.
Credit – ESA / Royal Observatory of Belgium
Perhaps more interesting is that 2020 was the start of a new cycle of solar activity that occurs roughly every 11 years. In the pictures you can see how the sun gradually becomes more active as the year progresses. Areas of intense activity are visible in November and December. Some of these areas could be responsible for mass coronal ejections or solar flares.
All of these images were taken on the Sun Watcher with the SWAP (Active Pixel System) camera, an instrument that focuses on extreme ultraviolet light. The wavelengths it captures reveal the sun's corona, the hottest part that can reach millions of degrees.
SWAP is not only suitable for taking progress pictures. Here is an example of some work done in trying to understand the solar poles.
Photo credit: ESA / Royal Observatory of Belgium
However, Proba-2 is not the only satellite that takes these images of the sun. The successor and technological cousin of the Solar Orbiter has a camera known as the Solar Orbiter Extreme Ultraviolet Imager. It wasn't launched until 2020 so couldn't add to this stunning series of images from Proba-2, but it sure will be able to do so in the near future.
ESA – The sun in 2020
UT – Great View! January 4th Solar eclipse from space
UT – Two ESA satellites are successfully launched
UT – satellite captures solar eclipse from space
Feature Image Credit – 366 images of the sun from the Proba-2 orbiter. Credit ESA / Royal Observatory of Belgium