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A NASA spacecraft just touched the Sun for the first time ever

Published Dec 16th, 2021 2:17PM EST
huge solar eruption from bright sun on dark background
Image: lukszczepanski/Adobe

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NASA has finally taken another step in its goal to touch the sun. Earlier this year, the Parker Solar Probe dipped beneath the Sun’s corona. This marks the first time that we’ve managed to breach the Sun’s atmosphere.

The Parker Solar Probe is the first to breach the Sun’s atmosphere

NASA has been trying to touch the sun for years. That might sound a little strange, considering the Sun is a big ball of nuclear energy, but that’s exactly what NASA wants to do. And, to some degree, it’s managed to do that, at least partly.

Back in April of 2021, NASA’s Park Solar Probe made the first foray into the Sun’s corona. That’s the outer atmosphere of the star. The spacecraft then spent five hours in the corona. Now, the results of that expedition have been published in Physical Review Letters with open access for all.

According to the papers, the Parker Solar Probe spent those five hours taking direct observations of what lies within the corona. This allowed it to measure phenomena that had only been estimated in the past. The ongoing mission to touch the Sun is way to learn more about the way that our star behaves. Since the Sun is the closest start to us, and the one that we rely on for heat and light, it’s important to understand it.

Of course, learning more about it could also help us learn more about other stars out there, too.

What we can learn from the Sun’s corona

sunImage source: NASA Goddard / SDO

While it might be the outer atmosphere, there’s actually a lot to learn from the Sun’s corona. For one, scientists believe the corona plays a large part in push solar winds. As such, understanding more about it could help us understand more about those powerful winds.

Furthermore, there are tons of other physics that we don’t fully understand going on inside the corona.

“We have been observing the sun and its corona for decades, and we know there is interesting physics going on there to heat and accelerate the solar wind plasma.” said Nour E. Raouafi, the Parker Solar Probe Project Scientist at JHU/APL. (via Phys.Org)

Raouafi says that the Parker Solar Probe will now be able to give us insight into those physics. Furthermore, it will also give us deeper glances at the surface of the sun beyond the corona. Of course, there’s still a long way to go before we truly understand the workings of our star. But, with the Parker Solar Probe having made this first step, we’re closer than ever to uncovering those secrets.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.