NASA has flown a probe closer to the sun than any spacecraft ever ventured before, capturing an incredible picture just 16.9 million miles from the surface of our star.
The Parker Solar Probe flew extremely close to the sun, smashing the previous distance record of 26.55 million miles (42.72 million kilometers) and speeding through space at 213,2000 miles per hour – the fastest any man-made spacecraft has ever travelled.
Now, NASA has revealed the groundbreaking image Parker captured during a speeding flyby on November 8. It shows a bright coronal streamer (essentially, solar material within the suns atmosphere) emanating from the left of the image.
The space agency says that the bright object near the center of the image is Mercury, while the dark spots are a result of background correction.
It was high-time for a spacecraft to inch closer to the sun. The previous record for closest approach and speed was held by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft from April 1976.
Parker is expected to repeatedly break its own records throughout its seven-year mission, making 24 close passes by the sun. Its final close approach in 2024 will take it just 3.83 million miles from the suns surface.
The Parker Solar Probe battles brutal heat and radiation during its mission to draw unprecedentedly close to the sun. It will provide crucial close-up observations of the star and answer questions about its inner workings that have puzzled scientists for decades.
“We don't know what to expect so close to the sun until we get the data, and we'll probably see some new phenomena,” said Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.
“Parker is an exploration mission – the potential for new discoveries is huge.”
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