NASA's Spacecraft Touches Solar Atmosphere for First Time in History

Parker Solar Probe Mission UPSC: NASA's Parker Solar Probe created history by successfully entering the Corona of the Sun. It is an extreme environment that’s roughly 2 million degrees Fahrenheit. The goal of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Mission is to learn how the Sun works and as per the scientists it can be accomplished by flying into the solar atmosphere.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe
NASA's Parker Solar Probe

Nasa news about sun: NASA’s spacecraft has done what was once imaginable. Parker Solar Probe by NASA on April 28, 2021 successfully entered the Corona of the Sun which is an extreme environment that’s roughly 2 million degrees Fahrenheit. A historic moment of touching the sun for the very first time was achieved because of a large collaboration of scientists and the engineers, including the members of the Center for Astrophysics I Harvard & Smithsonian who had built and monitor a key instrument on the board the probe- the Solar Probe Cup.

NASA while announcing the news on Twitter wrote that ‘Parker Solar Probe’ touched the Sun. It also added that for the very first time in history, a spacecraft has flown through the Sun’s atmosphere, the Corona.

Parker Solar Probe Mission: Why the solar mission is significant?

The goal of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Mission is to learn how the Sun works and as per the scientists it can be accomplished by flying into the solar atmosphere.

The only way to learn more about the workings of the Sun is through the spacecraft to cross the outer boundary which is also called the Alfven point. A basic part of the Solar mission was to be able to measure whether or not this critical point can be crossed.

NASA’s spacecraft enters Corona of the sun: What is Corona?

The Corona is the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere where the strong magnetic fields bind the plasma and prevents the turbulent solar winds from escaping.

The Alfven Point is when the solar winds go beyond a critical speed and break free of the Corona as well as the magnetic fields of the Sun. Before April 28, a spacecraft had been flying just beyond this point.

Michael Stevens, an astrophysicist further explained that if one looks up at the close-up pictures of the Sun, they can see these bright loops or hairs that seem to break free from the Sun but then reconnects with it. That’s the region that the Parker Solar Probe has flown into- an area where the atmosphere, plasma and wind are magnetically stuck and are interacting with the Sun.

Parker Solar Probe Mission: What do we know about Solar Probe Cup?

According to the instrument scientist of the Solar Probe Cup, it is itself an incredible achievement of engineering. As per the data collected by Solar Probe Cup of Parker Solar Probe Mission, the spacecraft had entered the Corona three times on April 28, 2021, at one point for up to five hours.

The amount of light hitting the Parker Solar Probe determined how hot the spacecraft will get. While much of the solar probe is protected by a heat shield, solar probe cup is one of the only two instruments that had stick out and have no protection.

The solar probe cup of NASA is directly exposed to the sunlight. It has the capacity of operating at a very high temperature while also making the measurements. In order to avoid degradation, a solar probe cup has been developed of materials that are capable of high melting points like niobium, tungsten, sapphire, and molybdenum.

NASA creates history by touching solar atmosphere for the first time

The success of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe represents much more than technological innovation. There are still various mysteries around Sun and the scientists through the probe are expecting to solve them.

While giving the reference, scientists explained that no one still actually knows why the outer atmosphere of the Sun is so much hotter than the Sun itself. It is known that the energy comes from the churning magnetic fields bubbling through the surface of the sun, however, it is still unknown how the Sun’s atmosphere absorbs this energy.

In addition, the outbursts from the Sun can also have a direct impact on the Earth. The Parker Solar Probe helps in the better understanding of all these phenomena. The solar probe will continue to orbit the Sun and take measurements.


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