NASA probe ‘touches the sun’ and realizes 63-year ambition


NASA’s Parker Solar Probe “touched” the sun – approximately 8.1 million miles from its surface. According to information, the probe crossed the corona, the sun’s upper atmosphere, in April a notice from the agency.

“This is a dream come true,” said Nour Raouafi, the Parker project scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, in a Video released by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “One of the primary goals of the Parker Solar Probe mission is to fly through the solar corona, and that’s what we’re doing now.”

An image showing plans for the Parker Solar Probe to travel towards the sun.  (Photo credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Mary P. Hrybyk-Keith)

An image showing plans for the Parker Solar Probe to travel towards the sun. (Photo credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center / Mary P. Hrybyk-Keith)

NASA had wanted to send a probe to the sun since 1958, and after decades of study and delays, the Parker Solar Probe launched in 2018. The probe moves in a spiral trajectory and slowly moves closer to the sun. Readings from the solar flyby in April confirmed to scientists that the probe was the first known spacecraft in history to fly through the corona.

“The Parker Solar Probe flies so close to the sun that it is now perceiving conditions in the magnetically dominated layer of the sun’s atmosphere – the corona – that we never could before,” said Raouafi. in a statement. “We see evidence that we are in the corona in magnetic field data, solar wind data, and visually in images. We can actually see the spacecraft fly through coronal structures that can be observed during a total solar eclipse. “

On its journey, the probe collects various data about the corona and the solar wind. So far, the probe has discovered serpentines, zigzag formations in the solar wind and determined where they form. Alfvén’s critical surface, the boundary where the solar atmosphere ends and solar winds begin, has also been shown to be wrinkled rather than smooth. The probe’s discoveries will help scientists better understand and predict extreme space weather, which can affect telecommunications on Earth and damage satellites.

Beautiful photos of the earth from space

“I’m excited to see what Parker will find as it traverses the corona in the years to come,” said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA headquarters. “The chance for new discoveries is limitless.”

For more information on NASA’s probe missions, see our article on Radio signals from the atmosphere of Venus or drop by Images from a flyby of Jupiter.

Main image source: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center / Mary P. Hrybyk-Keith

Kait Sanchez is a freelance writer for IGN. Find her on Twitter @crisp_red.





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