NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Sends First Close-up Image Of The Sun

Posted: Dec 16 2018, 10:41am CST | by , Updated: Dec 16 2018, 10:45am CST , in Latest Science News


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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Sends First Close-up Image of the Sun
Parker Solar Probe was about 16.9 million miles from the Sun's surface when this image was taken. Credit: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe

Humanity's first-ever solar mission aims to understand how the Sun works and how it affects the space environment.

On Nov. 11, NASA’s Parker probe completed its first close approach to the sun. The spacecraft came as close as 15 million miles of the sun's surface during that phase. This is far closer than any spacecraft has gone before. Now, Parker Solar Probe has returned first science data from this closest-ever solar encounter, which may help resolve decades-old questions about the inner workings of our nearest star.

"Heliophysicists have been waiting more than 60 years for a mission like this to be possible," said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA. Heliophysics is the study of the Sun and how it affects space near Earth, around other worlds and throughout the solar system. "The solar mysteries we want to solve are waiting in the corona."

Launched in August, Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first ever spacecraft to fly directly toward the sun. The small car-sized spacecraft will make 24 close approaches to the sun during the seven-year mission. With each flyby, it will get closer and closer to the sun, reaching within 3.9 million miles of the sun’s surface at closest approach. While zooming toward the sun, Parker probe will withstand extreme radiation and heat, thanks to its revolutionary heat shield and allow scientists to explore the sun in a way never possible before.

The probe will study the sun’s outer atmosphere or corona in unprecedented detail. Corona is about 300 times hotter than the Sun's surface. The atmosphere around the sun is not only unusual but also releases powerful plasma and energetic particles in all directions. The primary objective of the mission is to explore what accelerates these energetic particles as well as solar wind. The constant outpouring from sun can create hazardous space weather events that impact life on Earth, disrupt radio communications and even interfere with power grids. This is the first time that researchers are studying corona up close and personal. The resulting data could improve predictions of when major eruptions on the sun occur and how they affect the space environment.

“Parker Solar Probe is providing us with the measurements essential to understanding solar phenomena that have been puzzling us for decades," said Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University. "To close the link, local sampling of the solar corona and the young solar wind is needed and Parker Solar Probe is doing just that.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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