Parker Solar Probe: The First Spacecraft to Touch the Sun in History
NASA's Parker Solar Probe is the first spacecraft to touch the Sun.
The spacecraft was launched in 2018 to investigate the Sun's greatest mysteries. It has touched the solar atmosphere to collect new close-up images of our star. This allows us to see the Sun in a way we have never seen before.
This is the first time that a spacecraft has ever touched the Sun in history.
NASA's Parker Solar Probe flew through the Sun’s upper atmosphere - called the corona – and collected particles and magnetic field data there.
Parker is making new discoveries as it moves closer to the sun's surface.
This includes from within the solar wind, which is the flow of particles that comes from the Sun and can affect us here on Earth. It was a mystery how they formed. Parker Solar Probe has halved the distance from the Sun, which is enough to pinpoint one location where they originated: the solar surface. Parker Solar Probe touching the Sun is a significant moment in solar science and an incredible feat. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. Parker Solar Probe
'touching the Sun'
is a monumental moment in solar science and a truly remarkable feat, stated Nour Raouafi, Parker project scientist at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland.
We see evidence that we are in the corona through magnetic field data, solar winds data, as well as visually in images.
The probe took the first ever photos from within the corona and these images were later turned into this amazing 13-second timelapse video.
This footage shows the Parker Solar Probe's view as it flew through the Sun’s corona in August 2021. It also passes through structures called coronal streamers.
The JHU Applied Physics Laboratory wrote that these structures can be seen in the video compiled using the WISPR (Widefield Imager for Parker Solar Probe). This view was possible only because the spacecraft flew over and under the streamers in the corona. Streamers were previously only visible from afar.
These streamers can also be captured on Earth by photos of total solar eclipses.
Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe's project scientist, says that Parker Solar Probe is flying so close to the Sun. This allows it to sense conditions in the corona (magnetically dominated) layer of the solar atmosphere. We see evidence that we are in the corona through magnetic field data and solar wind data as well as visually in images. The spacecraft can actually be seen flying through coronal structures, which can be seen during a total eclipse.
In the timelapse, the Milky Way can rotate across the frame. But what's more amazing is that images were taken of multiple planets within the Solar System. Even views of Earth from the Sun's atmosphere are available.
These are the features and planets that Grant Tremblay, an astrophysicist at Harvard, has labeled in still frames. This is a collaboration between Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution.
Over the next few years, the Parker Solar Probe will be closer to the Sun's surface than ever before. It is expected to return to the Sun's corona as soon as next month.
Nicky Fox, Director of NASA Heliophysics Division, said that "I'm excited for what Parker Solar Probe discovers as it repeatedly passes through corona in years to come." "The potential for new discoveries is limitless."
One of the main goals of the Parker Solar Probe is to learn more about the solar wind.
This is the stream of particles that flow out from the Sun. The probe will also help us learn more about space weather. This is the term used for the conditions in space that can affect our technology and astronauts.
The Parker Solar Probe was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in August 2018.
It reached a speed of 425,000 miles per hour during its third and fourth orbits around the Sun. This means it became the fastest human-made object ever!
NASA's Parker Solar Probe will take seven years to complete 24 orbits of the Sun.
During this time it will make many trips through the Sun's atmosphere. This will help us learn more about our star and how it works.
The Parker Solar Probe is a spacecraft the size of a small car.
It has a heat shield to protect it from the intense heat of the Sun. The probe will also use its own instrumentation to study the solar atmosphere.
The data collected by the probe will help us learn more about the solar wind and space weather.
It will also help us understand how the Sun's atmosphere affects Earth's environment. The Parker Solar Probe is a very important spacecraft and will help us learn many things about our Sun!