A NASA Spacecraft has officially “touched” the sun, plunging through the unexplored solar atmosphere known as the corona. Scientists announced the news Tuesday during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The American Physical Society also published the latest findings.The Parker Solar Probe flew through the corona in April during the Spacecraft eighth close approach to the sun. Scientists said it took a few months to get the data back and several more months to confirm.
Nour Raouafi of Johns Hopkins University and the project scientist said it is fascinating. Launched in 2018, Parker was 8 million miles (13 million kilometers) from the center of the sun when it first crossed the jagged, uneven boundary between the solar atmosphere and outgoing solar wind. The Spacecraft dipped in and out of the corona at least three times, each a smooth transition, according to scientists.
He said that the corona appeared dustier than expected. Future coronal excursions will help scientists better understand the origin of solar wind how it is heated and accelerated out into space. Because the sun lacks a solid surface, the corona is where the action is; exploring this magnetically intense region up close can help scientists understand solar outbursts that can interfere with life here on Earth.
Preliminary data suggest Parker also dipped into the corona during its ninth close approach in August, but scientists said more analyses are needed. It made its 10th comparative approach last month. Parker will keep drawing ever closer to the sun and diving deeper into the corona until its grand finale orbit in 2025.