NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has officially made the closest-ever approach to a star and captured an image of the sun’s outer atmosphere for the world to see. The image, captured Nov. 8, shows the corona when the spacecraft was just 16.9 million miles from the star. The probe’s WISPR instrument took the photo, in which Jupiter is seen as the bright object. Parker also broke records for the fastest space probe, as it sends data back from its first solar encounter, and scientists gathered Wednesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Washington, D.C., to speak about the data. Read more for a video about Parker and additional information.
The Parker Solar Probe was launched Aug. 12 and will make 24 close passes by the sun over the next seven years, with the mission’s goal to help solve the mystery of why the corona is about 300 times as hot as the sun’s surface. Science News said the sun’s outer atmosphere could reach temperatures of millions of degrees, while its or photosphere could be around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but the mechanisms that produce the super-heating are not fully understood.
“What we are looking at now is completely brand new. Nobody looked at this before. We need to go into this region to be able to sample the new plasma, the newly formed material, to be able to see what processes, what physics, is taking place in there,” said solar physicist Nour Raouafi at a news conference.