The Parker Solar Probe accomplished a first for space exploration when, according to NASA, it “touched the sun,” grazing the solar system’s celestial body’s corona or upper atmosphere.
And, naturally, we’ve got photographs of it all as well as those same images strung together into an amazing video. Not only can you see the corona’s particles and magnetic fields, but you can also see some of the planets in the distance as well.
Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington Thomas Zurbuchen explains the significance of the mission’s success:
“Parker Solar Probe “touching the Sun” is a monumental moment for solar science and a truly remarkable feat. Not only does this milestone provide us with deeper insights into our Sun's evolution and its impacts on our solar system, but everything we learn about our own star also teaches us more about stars in the rest of the universe.”
One of the central questions the mission hopes to answer is how the corona is heated to millions of degrees, “far hotter than the surface below.” As the blog post explains, the sun itself doesn’t have a solid surface as we imagine it on Earth but is, instead, a high-energy plasma.
Of particular interest to the scientists is the phenomenon of switchbacks or “zig-zag-shaped structures in the solar wind.”
As is typical with one discovery, however, it often yields more questions, as is the case here:
“While the new findings locate where switchbacks are made, the scientists can’t yet confirm how they’re formed. One theory suggests they might be created by waves of plasma that roll through the region like ocean surf. Another contends they’re made by an explosive process known as magnetic reconnection, which is thought to occur at the boundaries where the magnetic funnels come together.
It’s all pretty heady stuff – and so are the accompanying pictures.
You can watch the video of the probe passing through the corona over on YouTube.
You can also check out some of our other photography news on Light Stalking at this link right here.