Among the latest in outer space exploration, NASA’s announced a monumental feat as their Parker Solar Probe has “touched” our solar system’s Sun for the first time ever.
The feat is monumental in itself as the sun’s overall temperature reaches a scorching 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. Unsurprisingly, the Parker Solar Probe did not endure temperatures quite that scathing. However, the Daily Mail reports NASA’s spacecraft endured temperatures reaching 2,370 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, it simultaneously battled radiation levels 500 times stronger than we experience here on Earth. That the craft didn’t just simply melt or incinerate upon contact is impressive overall.
However, it’s what the solar probe learned in its solar deep dive that marks a truly historic event for NASA.
As per the news outlet, Parker plunged through the “unexplored solar atmosphere,” the sun’s corona, to retain brand new knowledge. In its travels, the space craft came within a remarkable eight million miles from the star’s gaseous core.
The craft’s initial approach took place in April this year, but scientists just confirmed its penetration of the sun’s corona.
Of the historic feat, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said, “Not only does this milestone provide us with deeper insights into our Sun’s evolution and its impact on our solar system, but everything we learn about our own star also teaches us more about stars in the rest of the universe.”
The Journey Leading Up to NASA’s Latest Success
The announcement regarding the Parker Solar Probe’s penetration of the sun‘s corona is massive in itself. However, the journey to this point is remarkable in its own right.
While Outsiders prepare to embark on another New Year, Parker initially launched several years ago in 2018. It received its name from American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker. With it, NASA intended to answer questions regarding the star’s solar wind and its particles that get flung throughout the solar system.
The Parker Solar Probe finally made contact with and penetrated the sun’s corona after seven previous attempts. During its historic journey, the probe “dipped” in and out of the corona at least three times. Scientists navigating the device’s data reported each of the individual “dips” saw a smooth transition, despite the star’s intense heat.
University of Michigan Justin Kasper expanded on some of the details as to NASA’s latest success.
“The first and most dramatic time we were below for about five hours,” Kasper stated. He pointed out that while the time spent beneath the corona doesn’t initially seem all that impressive, the space craft’s rate of speed is what made the first penetration so remarkable.
In speaking with reporters, he reported that the Parker Solar Probe had been moving so rapidly, it covered a vast distance measuring 62 miles per second.
So, while Neil Armstrong’s statement regarding the moon landing is sure to withstand time, NASA’s penetration of our Sun’s corona signifies a giant leap in outer space research and exploration.