No spacecraft with a camera has ever flown over the Sun’s north pole to take a photo, so scientists had to make one the hard way.

We’ve got a lot of pictures of the sun, but surprisingly none of them are overhead shots. From here on earth, of course, it’s impossible to get any picture of the sun from any angle other than equatorial. But even with several spacecraft launched to study the sun, our only views of the center of our solar system remain the same.

A group of scientists at the European Space Agency wanted to change that, but they couldn’t build an entirely new spacecraft to go to the sun’s poles and take pictures. Instead, they repurposed images taken by the agency’s Proba-2 satellite and stitched them together to create a new image of the sun’s north pole from scratch.

The resulting image is a composite stitched together from data collected from dozens of Proba-2 images. Recreating this view of the sun wasn’t as simple as cutting and pasting different perspectives; instead, the researchers examined the thin slivers of atmosphere visible on every picture of the sun and worked backward from there to deduce what the polar region must look like.

This method is extremely tricky and time-consuming, which is why no one has ever done this before. But the result is important for astronomers and anyone else studying the sun. This work literally gives us a new perspective we can use to learn more about the sun. Who knows what other scientists will do with it.

Source: ESA