Spotting the Sun is easy on a cloudless day, but scientists hoping to learn more about our nearest star have a difficult task when it comes to studying its poles. We get great views of all sides of the Sun as the Earth orbits around it, but seeing the top and bottom is surprisingly difficult.
The European Space Agency has worked to solve this problem by developing together several images of the north pole of the Sun gathered from satellites. Now, for the first time, we have a pretty decent look on the north pole of our star, and it's pretty clean.
The image is a collection of many fragments, but I will leave it to ESA to explain how the images were captured:
While the poles can not be seen directly, when spacecraft observe the solar atmosphere they collect data about everything that is along their line of sight, also observing the atmosphere that extends around the Sun's disk ( the apparent glow around the main disk of the Sun, which also extends above the poles). Scientists can use this to deduce the appearance of the polar regions. To estimate the properties of the solar atmosphere on the poles, they continuously imagine the main disk of the Sun and take small fragments of data from the outer and upper regions of the star as it rotates, compensating for the fact that the Sun does not rotate at constant speed to all latitudes.
Yes, it's a bite, but the end result is what the ESA suggests is a reasonably accurate glimpse of the north pole of the Sun. Obviously, this image does not fully capture the brightness of the star that appears if you look at it from the high. In other words, you would not notice any of the structures you see in this instant patchwork with the naked eye.
The researchers hope that by further studying the functioning of our star, we will gain more knowledge about the events that produce space weather that ultimately affects the Earth.