“We hit the sun,” NASA wrote on Twitter. For the first time in history, a man-made spacecraft made contact with the Sun. The honor went to Parker Solar Probe (PSP).
NASA’s Parker Probe flew in and through the solar corona, the outer atmosphere around the sun, on April 28 this year. Parker’s high-tech heat shield was suspended and the probe was able to make unique measurements. This provided a wealth of unprecedented data about the core of our solar system. “The new milestone represents a major step for the Parker Solar Probe and a paradigm shift for solar science,” NASA said, citing the historic words of US astronaut Neil Armstrong who became the first human to set foot on the Moon in 1969. “Just as landing on the moon enabled scientists to understand how the moon was formed, by touching the material that the sun is made of, scientists will be able to discover important information about our nearest star and its impact on the solar system.”
Thomas Zurbuchen of NASA adds: “Not only does this important milestone give us insight into the evolution of our sun and its impact on our solar system, but everything we learn about our star also teaches us more about the stars in the rest of our planet and universe.”
The Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 12, 2018 to fly behind the sun 26 times in seven years, each time at smaller distances. Such an approach to the Sun is called perihelion. Perigee 8 in April was the first as the PSP flew into the solar corona for the first time. The probe remained in the solar atmosphere for nearly five hours, measuring the fluctuations of the sun’s magnetic field and taking samples of particles. These are the observations that humanity was not able to make until then.
“We can see the spacecraft flying through the coronal structures that we can observe during a total solar eclipse,” explains astrophysicist Noor Al-Rawafi of the Johns Hopkins Laboratory of Applied Physics. “As the Parker solar probe flies in the magnetically dominant halo, we’re getting long-awaited insights into the inner workings of this mysterious region.”
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