Solar Orbiter sees switchbacks in sun’s magnetic field

The European sun-observing mission Solar Orbiter observed a mysterious “switchback” in the solar wind that might explain what propels particles from the sun across the solar system.

The probe, built to take the closest images of the sun and study the star’s magnetic field, spotted the weird S-shaped “kink” in the solar plasma in March this year, and the observation was published on Monday (Sept. 12). Described in a new paper as “the first evidence of a switchback in the solar corona,” the observation was made by Solar Orbiter‘s coronagraph METIS (an instrument that blocks out the disk of the sun to observe the surrounding upper atmosphere, the corona).