- For the first time in human history, a spacecraft has made contact with the Sun.
- The Parker Solar Probe reached within little under 15 solar radii of the Sun’s surface on its eighth flyby.
- The Parker Solar Probe was launched to investigate the Sun from a position closer to its surface than any previous probe.
Parker Solar Probe sails into the sun
For the first time in human history, a spacecraft has made contact with the Sun.
According to NASA, the Parker Solar Probe first sailed into the Sun’s outer layer known as the corona on April 28, 2021, collecting particles and measuring the Sun’s magnetic field. On December 14, the announcement was made public in a publication published in Physical Review Letters.
“The ‘touching the Sun’ of the Parker Solar Probe is a landmark milestone for solar research and a really spectacular achievement,” stated Thomas Zurbuchen, assistant administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
“Not only does this milestone offer us greater insights into our Sun’s evolution and its effects on our solar system, but what we discover about our own star tells us more about stars across the cosmos.“
Touching the sun
Scientists believe that the corona (the brilliant, slightly spikey portions around the moon that may be seen during a total eclipse) spans anywhere from 10 to 20 solar radii from the Sun’s surface or around 4.3 to 8.6 million miles.
Since its launch in 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has been on a tighter spiral course around the Sun, and on its eighth time around at roughly 18.8 solar radii, it experienced important magnetic and particle characteristics that indicated it had crossed the ACS and entered the Sun’s corona.
The probe’s maiden flight into the corona lasted only a few hours, but as the 11-year solar cycle intensifies, the corona will spread outward, allowing the probe many more chances to fly through it.
The Parker Solar Probe reached within little under 15 solar radii of the Sun’s surface on its eighth flyby, and it is predicted to ultimately get within 8.86 solar radii of the Sun’s surface. Its next flyby is anticipated for January 2022, during which it will most certainly travel through the corona once more.
Journey to the sun’s surface
The Parker Solar Probe was launched to investigate the Sun from a position closer to its surface than any previous probe. It can endure temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit owing to a thermal barrier composed of a sophisticated carbon-composite material (1,377 degrees Celsius).
This has the effect of cutting through the heat of the Sun in the same way as a racecar splits up the air in front of it, generating a draught behind it. Another automobile finds less wind resistance in the space behind the racer and can actually accelerate quicker than if it were in front.
Similarly, the Parker Solar Probe’s thermal barrier drives heat away from the probe, allowing the probe and its instruments behind it to encounter a much more controllable temperature that will not melt all of its equipment.
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