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15 Dec, 2021 07:00

Space probe dives into Sun’s ‘corona’ in world first

Space probe dives into Sun’s ‘corona’ in world first

A NASA spacecraft has entered the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere for the first time in history, scientists have confirmed, branding the achievement “one giant leap for solar science.”

It was revealed on Tuesday that NASA’s Parker Solar Probe had made contact with the Sun’s ‘corona’ in April – a milestone that Johns Hopkins University senior scientist Nour Raouafi, who worked on the project, described as “fascinatingly exciting.”

“Flying so close to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe now senses conditions in the magnetically dominated layer of the solar atmosphere – the corona – that we never could before,” Raouafi explained, claiming scientists “can actually see the spacecraft flying through coronal structures that can be observed during a total solar eclipse.”

NASA called the news “one giant leap for solar science” and claimed that “just as landing on the Moon allowed scientists to understand how it was formed, touching the very stuff the Sun is made of will help scientists uncover critical information about our closest star and its influence on the solar system.”

The Parker Solar Probe was launched in August 2018 and will study the corona using Venus’ gravity to perform seven flybys as part of a mission that will take nearly seven years.

According to NASA, the probe “will fly through the Sun’s atmosphere as close as 3.8 million miles to our star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.”

The probe’s activity is expected to continue through December 2025.