An image of the sun was recently captured by a satellite, producing the most detailed picture yet of the celestial body. The sun is about 93 million miles away from the earth, and NASA recently made history with its Parker Solar Probe that flew through the sun’s upper atmosphere. Unlike other rocky planets, the sun does not have a solid surface making it impossible for a spacecraft to land on it.

For centuries, the sun has been a constant subject and source of inspiration, appearing in various man-made works such as ancient artistic sculptures, and more recently, photographs. The first-ever photo of the sun was taken way back in 1845, using an antediluvian method of photography known as Daguerreotype. Now, a new image captures it in even more detail than some of the best pictures of the sun currently available.

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The latest high-resolution image of the sun was captured by the Solar Orbiter satellite, a joint mission between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. Using a combination of Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) and Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (SPICE) sensors, the satellite was able to capture the highest-resolution photo of the sun ever taken, according to the ESA. The Solar Orbiter also captured a full image of the sun, the first of its kind in 50 years. The high-resolution image is made up of more than 83 million pixels, with a resolution of 9,148 x 9,112 pixels. For reference, a 4K TV typically displays a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, while the average 8K monitor can display resolutions of up to 7,680 x 4,320, both of which are still dwarfed by the image’s pixel count. Currently stationed within Mercury’s orbit, the Solar Orbiter is expected to capture more images of the sun, including its previously unseen polar regions.

Capturing The Sun In High Resolution

Solar Orbiter satellite facing the sun via ESA

Unlike the more conventional means of photographing celestial bodies, the process by which the ESA captured its ultra-crisp sun picture is much more complex. Not only was the photo taken from about 75 million miles away, but the resulting picture was also composed of 25 individual images stitched together. Each smaller picture took 10 minutes to process, with the entire image taking over four hours to capture.

The result is an awe-inspiring image of the sun, which can be zoomed-in multiple times via the website, revealing detailed close-ups of its radiant solar flares and multitude of sunspots. Although users will be able to view the whole picture, they won’t be able to see it in its native resolution. Commercially-available 8K displays only support around 33 million pixels, which is less than half the resolution of the picture. The Solar Orbiter will repeatedly fly this close to the sun over the next several years, which means there are a lot more images to look forward to.