Unique Solar System Views from NASA Sun-Studying Missions


Jan. 26, 2021

Illustration showing Solar Orbiter's perspective on the planets as it orbits the Sun
This computer-generated view shows the perspective of the Solar Orbiter spacecraft on Nov. 18, 2020, illustrating why Solar Orbiter’s view shows — from left to right — Venus, Earth, and Mars, with Mercury and the Sun off camera to the right.Credits: ESA

Though they focus on the star at the center of our solar system, three of NASA’s Sun-watching spacecraft have captured unique views of the planets throughout the last several months. Using instruments that look not at the Sun itself, but at the constant outflow of solar material from the Sun, the missions — ESA and NASA’s Solar Orbiter, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, and NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory — have sent home images from their distinct vantage points across the inner solar system.

All three missions carry instruments to study the Sun and its influence on space, including cameras that look out the sides of the spacecraft to study the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the solar wind, and the dust in the inner solar system. It’s these instruments that, at various points in 2020, saw several planets pass through their fields of view.

Each of the three missions has a distinct orbit, so their perspectives are different from both ours here on Earth and from each other. This is reflected in each spacecraft’s view of the planets, which show the bodies in different positions than what would have been seen from Earth and from the other spacecraft on those dates.

Solar Orbiter

Series of images showing three bright planets -- Venus, Earth, and Mars -- against a background of stars.

ESA and NASA’s Solar Orbiter took these images of Venus, Earth, and Mars on Nov. 18, 2020.Credits: ESA/NASA/NRL/Solar Orbiter/SolOHIDownload an unlabled version of this image.

Looking back towards home from about 155.7 million miles (250.6 million kilometers) away, the Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager, or SoloHI, aboard ESA and NASA’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft captured Venus, Earth, and Mars together on Nov. 18, 2020. The Sun is located on the right, outside the image frame. 

Launched in February 2020, Solar Orbiter returned its first images in July 2020, including the closest-ever view of the Sun. SoloHI, one of ten instruments on the spacecraft and the only heliospheric imager, looks off to the side of the Sun to capture the solar wind and dust that fills the space between the planets.

Parker Solar Probe

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe saw almost all the solar system’s planets in a pair of images captured on June 7, 2020.
Click and drag the slider to see a labeled (left) and unlabeled (right) version of the image.
Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Laboratory/Guillermo Stenborg and Brendan Gallagher

As Parker Solar Probe wheeled around the Sun on June 7, 2020, its Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe instrument, or WISPR, snapped two image frames that captured six of our solar system’s planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

WISPR captures images of the solar corona and inner heliosphere in visible light, along with images of the solar wind and other structures as they approach and pass the spacecraft. The spacecraft was approximately 11.6 million miles (18.7 million kilometers) from the Sun, and about 98.3 million miles (158 million kilometers) from Earth, when WISPR gathered the images.


NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory saw most of the solar system’s planets in one image on June 7, 2020. Click and drag the slider to see a labeled (left) and unlabeled (right) version of the image.

NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, captured this view of most of our solar system’s planets on June 7, 2020. Though this image was taken around the same time as Parker Solar Probe’s, STEREO’s position in the solar system gave it a different perspective on the planets. This image is from one of the Heliospheric Imagers on STEREO, which views the outer atmosphere of the Sun, the corona, and the solar wind, allowing scientists to study how solar material travels out into the solar system. The dark columns in the image are related to saturation on the instrument’s detector, caused by the brightness of the planets combined with the long exposure time. 

Two diagrams illustrating the positions of Parker Solar Probe and STEREO in space on June 7, 2020
(Left) This graphic illustrates Parker Solar Probe’s position and view of the solar system on June 7, 2020. The inset shows the spacecraft and its orientation, as well as the location of the WISPR instrument on the spacecraft and the fields of view of its inner and outer telescopes. The slightly brighter region between the two fields of view is the telescopes’ overlapping views. The green loops overlapping the inner planets mark Parker Solar Probe’s path around the Sun. (Right) This graphic illustrates the position of NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory on June 7, 2020, when it saw most of the solar system’s planets in one image.Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Yanping Guo; NASA/STEREO/HI

Sarah Frazier and Miles Hatfield
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Michael Buckley
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md.

Last Updated: Jan. 26, 2021

Editor: Sarah Frazier

5 10 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Philip Mulholland
January 26, 2021 10:50 pm

Where is the Moon?

Reply to  Philip Mulholland
January 27, 2021 12:01 am

Oh my god, it finally happened! Baal Gates stole the moon!
Or maybe it’s a question of scale?

Reply to  paranoid goy
January 27, 2021 2:32 am

And luminosity?

Bryan A
Reply to  rah
January 27, 2021 6:33 pm

OR perhaps it could just happen to be behind Earth in the images vantage point
Examining the first GIF with the planets labeled, the Earth is directly below the “R” in the EARTH label (moving very slightly Left) I believe that the Moon is visible left of the Earth and beneath the gap between “EA”

Peta of Newark
January 27, 2021 2:17 am

Here’s a wonderation:
Is El Sol a single, uniform humongous ‘lump’ of stuff , generally presumed to be mostly hydrogen, if not entirely = Hydrogen?

Shirley, (well travelled int she?) El Sol must have vast amounts of other stuff inside it – the stuff planets are made of.
Is that stuff uniformly mixed together or is it in ‘lumps’?
How would those lumps manifest?

Considering the amount of Iron there has to be in this Universe, is the Iron that must be present inside Sol still in any way magnetic? (at solar temperatures)

Would that explain Sun Spots. They are magnetic ‘things’ Have they something to do with blobs of iron floating to the surface – coming off an irregular shaped blob deep inside.
(Like blasts of cold air coming off the Polar Vortex down here.
Or a blob of particular size/mass that is gently wobbling like a jelly, like your tummy does on a roller coaster – with an 11 year resonance that is variously affected by smaller blobs ‘orbiting’ or moving around deep inside as they might detach and re-attach

But other stuff must be in there and if/when it bubbles up to the surface, it will evaporate away.
Would that stuff ##, being puffed out and mostly certainly attracted down to Earth/earth not only by gravity but also Earth’s magnetic personality – might it “Affect The Weather”

## Why the fook ** should it NOT affect The Weather and, if the flow of stuff was prolonged enough, The Climate.
The stuff being pulled in is, or would be, composed entirely of all the things generally reckoned to affect Climate.
Including things currently NOT assumed to affect Climate – things that affect plants?

** The Norty Word is used for emphasis, not for the sake of naughty

So just as dust storms, wild fires and volcanoes blast out vast amounts of plant food, does El Sol not also do that?
It Shirley must

Might explain a few things, Misunderstood Things that come from a horribly over-simplified primary-school education that says “The Sun is made of Hydrogen” – cheerfully neglecting all the other stuff that has to be in there.

[I live next door to Shirley
Really I do
‘Shir’ refers to ‘Shire’ = a county or administrative district
‘Ley’ refers to a wood = small forest

Thus Shirley is = Shire-Wood, further bastidized as is the way of The English Language into Sherwood.
And when Shire Wood grows up, i.e. gets big, she becomes Sherwood Forest.
Home of the world famous Robin Hood]
Ooooh, nearly forgot. Home of me

Fairly nice pictures you have there NASA.
Now, what are you not telling us. Why the distraction? ^^

Have the wings of your latest Alphabetti Spaghettiti Spuntik fallen off, or is just another boring and run-of-the-mill crashing, burning and melting such as we’re now accustomed?

luv & kisses

^^ You’re good at making hashes, junk science and doing distractions and thus, you’ll be perfectly suited to the job of UK Prime Minister – an opening that’ll be coming up soon
Say you’ll think about it

Philip Mulholland
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 27, 2021 2:54 am

‘Ley’ refers to a wood = small forest


Then we have ly, ley, lea, and leigh, the old leah, meaning an area of pasture land, as in Hellingly, Chorley, Lea, Leaton, Leigh, and Hadleigh;

From Anglo-Saxon Place Names

Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 27, 2021 6:09 am

Magnetism in atoms (different from magnetism caused by electric currents) is caused by the electrons (which have to be in a particular configuration, hence most elements are not magnetic). At the temperatures of the Sun, the outer electrons of atoms have been stripped, i.e. the atoms have been ionized. Under those circumstances, iron is not going to be magnetic.

Atomic nuclei can also be magnetic (which is why NMRs work), but their susceptibility is orders of magnitude less than that of atoms that have the right electron configuration.

The magnetism of the Sun is caused by the flow of charged particles, a phenomenon also observed on Earth in electromagnets (which don’t need iron), or indeed by any electric current. This is easier to see with DC than with AC, but with AC it generates electromagnetic waves–hence radio.

More at wikipedia, see the article on magnetism.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 27, 2021 7:43 am

generally presumed to be mostly hydrogen, if not entirely = Hydrogen?

Generally presumed by whom?

Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 27, 2021 8:14 am

I’ve asked where the heavy elements went that would have collected at Sol’s core during formation. How is this ejected? Or is it?

One thought is that Sol’s core is not hydrogen. Rather it is neutrons, resulting from the collapse of matter under pressure. There is support for this with evidence that perhaps 50% of the sun’s energy is from the decay of neutrons into hydrogen. (50% estimate are common when scientisrs havent a clue – look at global warming). The remaining energy comes from the fusion of hydrogen.

Otherwise there really is no explanation why Sol doesn’t have an iron core, because iron is the endpoint of fusion and fission. You need to collapse iron into neutrons , which can then decay back to hydrogen.

Reply to  Ferdberple
January 27, 2021 10:40 am

evidence that perhaps 50% of the sun’s energy is from the decay of neutrons into hydrogen”: Huh? What evidence?

In any case, the density at the Sun’s core is far too small to turn that core into a neutron star. Some hairy details here: https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/190220/free-neutrons-in-the-suns-core. Neutron stars form during the collapse of supernovas, which do provide sufficient pressure/ density.

Likewise, while iron is an end state of fusion (not really of fission) in the sense that the creation of heavier nuclei absorbs energy rather than producing energy, the Sun’s core is not hot or dense enough to create much more than helium, much less iron; more info here: https://astronomy.com/magazine/ask-astro/2014/03/suns-iron. Again, iron (along with most lighter and all heavier nuclei) is created in supernovas.

Richard G.
Reply to  Ferdberple
January 27, 2021 11:22 am

Some observations are really hard to reconcile with the standard model.

Example: Przybylski’s Star, a rapidly oscillating AP star of 4 solar masses, 355 light years from earth. It is estimated that the star performs a complete rotation around its own axis once every 188 years. It contains high levels of unusual elements like strontium, holmium, niobium, scandium, yttrium, cesium, neodymium, praseodymium, thorium, ytterbium, uranium and even plutonium. Several of these have extremely short half lives (relatively speaking), and should have died out by now.
Lantanides and Actinides with impossibly short half lives (Einsteinium= 472 days, Promethium= 17.7 years), extremely low level of Iron.

A real head scratcher. Maybe the standard model needs some duct tape to hold it together. Maybe a new drawing board?

January 27, 2021 3:30 am

You can watch some in real time here (SOHO)comment image
there are couple of planets there, looks like Mercury & Venus, star gazing geeks may know if they are, or consult JPL orrery
need to click on the right hand icon at the bottom, to zoom in on the inner SS, you can from there continue zooming in further on.
Soho is at the Lagrange L1 point just in front of the Earth towards the sun. Stereo Ahead and Behind are at L4 & L5 at 60 degrees displacement and L3 is on the other side of the sun, opposite to L1.
Last five days here:comment image

Reply to  Vuk
January 27, 2021 4:02 am

last five days link may take time to show up, if not try this
adding https:\\ at the front

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by MonsterInsights