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Monday, February 6, 2023

NASA’s Tough Spacecraft Soars Into The Sun’s Atmosphere, Captures Wild Footage

What a scene.

A spacecraft has entered the sun’s hostile outer atmosphere, known as the corona, and captured scintillating images of its interior. NASA announced the historic achievement on Dec. 14, achieved by the Parker Solar Probe.

NASA’s probe has a 4.5-inch-thick shield to protect its cameras and other instruments from temperatures of about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The speeding craft captured the unprecedented images below when it swung 6.5 million miles from the Sun’s surface in April 2021. There are structures inside the corona called pseudostreamers, which are long, radiant beams emanating from the Sun. The probe passed over, below, and around the streamers.

NASA explained that the pseudostreamers in the top row of images move upward while those in the bottom row are angled downward.

Parker Solar Probe is doing much more than capturing solar scenes. Scientists will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the intense, dynamic activity of the Sun, particularly the powerful solar wind. The solar wind is a continuous stream of charged particles constantly travelling out of the Sun’s atmosphere, which, during space weather storms, can “disrupt everything from satellites in space to ship communications on our oceans to the grids on land,” according to NASA.

Researchers want to understand solar winds better and even predict when damaging storms might occur.

Researchers expect Parker’s solar wind measurements, just a few million miles from the Sun, to shed new light on the processes that send it speeding out into space.

While the Parker Solar Probe traveled around the Sun (and in the solar wind), it had to deal with a “busy barrage of particles.” However, things changed dramatically once the spacecraft entered the corona, though it was only there for a few hours, and everything calmed down.

“Passing through the pseudostreamer was like flying into the eye of a storm.”

“Passing through the pseudostreamer was like flying into the eye of a storm,” NASA reported. In the corona, the Sun’s dominant magnetic fields control the movement of particles emanating from the Sun, so there’s more organization and less chaos.

The space probe will fly within 3.8 million miles of the surface of our star during its journey around the Sun in the coming years. More images and discoveries are to be expected.

“I’m excited to see what Parker finds as it repeatedly passes through the corona in the years to come,” Nicola Fox, the director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division, said in a statement. “The opportunity for new discoveries is boundless.”

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