NASA

NASA's Solar Probe Touched The Sun And Sent Back The First Videos Of Plasma

Humanity's exploration of the cosmos has achieved a new milestone.

For the first time, a spacecraft launched from Earth has made contact with the Sun, flying through the star's upper atmosphere, or corona.

The photos are incredible, and so is the data it's giving us on how the Sun works.

The Parker Solar Probe was launched in 2018.

Wikipedia | NASA Kennedy

Later in 2018, it became the closest-ever artificial object to the Sun, breaking the record set by the Helios 2 spacecraft in 1976.

Since then, though, it's gotten closer and closer to the Sun's corona, sending back data to NASA scientists on Earth.

It's officially touched the Sun.

By passing through the Sun's corona, the Parker Solar Probe has officially touched the Sun. Of course, if it got much closer to the unfathomably hot star, it wouldn't survive the trip and wouldn't be able to transmit data back home.

It's helping scientists learn about the Sun.

Wikipedia | NASA/Bill Ingalls

"Parker Solar Probe 'touching the Sun' is a monumental moment for solar science and a truly remarkable feat," said NASA official Thomas Zurbuchen.

"Not only does this milestone provide us with deeper insights into our Sun’s evolution and its impacts on our solar system, but everything we learn about our own star also teaches us more about stars in the rest of the universe."

What's there to learn?

Plenty. The spacecraft's proximity to the Sun is giving us data on solar wind, data that other spacecraft were too far away to accurately measure. Because solar wind affects us on Earth, it's extremely valuable data to gather.

The spacecraft is built for heat.

Wikipedia | NASA

The Sun's atmosphere, which the spacecraft is passing through, is superheated. With that in mind, the Parker Solar Probe was designed to withstand extreme temperatures and still keep functioning. It'll continue doing flybys of the corona to gather data.

How close is it to the Sun's surface?

Unsplash | NASA

The Sun doesn't have a solid surface, but the probe is within 6.4714 million miles of the star's swirling mass of fire. That might not sound close, but it's far closer than anything else we've launched towards the Sun.

It's found some interesting features.

Wikipedia | Kelvinsong

One feature, known as a pseudostreamer, functioned similarly to the eye of a storm. When the spacecraft entered it, conditions became quiet and particles slowed down. Back outside the pseudostreamer, things became active and chaotic once again.

It's helping us learn about solar wind.

Solar wind — the particles emanating from the Sun and whizzing out into the solar system — is strong and steady by the time it reaches Earth. But the spacecraft has found out that these particles are more patchy when they're ejected by the sun.

The spacecraft will get even closer to the Sun.

Wikipedia | Marigaense

It's purpose built for extreme temperatures and will continue to orbit the Sun, flying in and out of its corona and passing even closer to its turbulent surface, until at least the end of 2025.

The universe holds many mysteries.

By finding out more about how the Sun functions, scientists are learning more and more about stars in general. While spaceflight may still be in its infancy, data on the heavenly bodies within our solar system can help pave the way for future exploration.