Touch the Sun

Remember how Icarus wanted to touch the Sun, but met his demise instead?

Well, scientists at NASA wanted to touch the Sun too, but unlike Icarus, they succeeded!

Better yet, they are beginning to share what they learned by doing it!

Before we get into all of that, let’s go back and start at the beginning.

NASA launched a robotic spacecraft called the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) in 2018, and this video describes the probe’s audacious mission to “touch the Sun.”

NASA Goddard (YouTube Channel)
NASA Goddard (Official Website)

Then NASA posted this 360° video about the probe’s launch that was narrated by Nicola Fox (Project Scientist at that time and now Director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division).

NASA (YouTube Channel)
NASA (Official Website)

Since its launch, the probe has done a spectacular job of starting to achieve its scientific goals, and some of the first results were just released this week.

Here’s a quick teaser that NASA posted ahead of a press conference on Wednesday.

ScienceAtNASA (YouTube Channel)
NASA Science (Official Website)

This video summarizes the key discoveries that NASA shared at the press conference.

NASA Goddard (YouTube Channel)
NASA Goddard (Official Website)

Four articles about the results were also posted by the journal Nature ahead of their publication in the print edition on December 12th. This article introduces the articles and has links to them.
A step closer to the Sun’s secrets (Daniel Verscharen, Nature)

It’s awesome to know more about what makes that great glowing ball in the sky tick, but I also found myself a bit sad because the mission’s goals do not include sending back imagery for us Earthlings to enjoy. That means we still don’t know what it looks like to “touch the Sun.”

Perhaps it would look a bit like this 360° video of a simulation of the Sun that was posted by a hearty YouTuber way back in 2016.

Zproxy (YouTube Channel)

That was cathartic to watch, but of course it wouldn’t sound like that because there is no “sound” in space. The actual experience would also be way, way more visually stunning.

We can be certain of that because, while the Parker Solar Probe doesn’t capture imagery, there’s another NASA mission called the Solar Dynamics Observatory that does. It doesn’t capture 360° videos, but what it does capture is far more dynamic than the simulation.

Here’s a video that the Solar Dynamics Observatory captured on June 18, 2015. This isn’t exactly how it would look because it’s been colorized in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, but it still gives you a sense of the unbelievable majesty of the activity that you would see on the surface of our favorite star if you were able to go there in person.

NASA Goddard (YouTube Channel)
NASA Goddard (Official Website)

How beautiful was that?!?!

Kudos to the scientists and engineers at NASA for having the audacity to find ways to go where no one has gone before and for communicating to us what it’s like there, too!

Check out the latest news from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe …

  • Dozens of Observatories Collected Data During...
    by Vanessa Thomas on March 21, 2023 at 7:54 pm

    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its 15th close approach to the Sun on March 17, coming within 5.3 million miles of the scorching solar surface. The geometry of Parker’s latest orbit also placed it in direct view of Earth and several other Sun-observing spacecraft during its close encounter, providing unique scientific opportunities for collaborative observations …

  • NASA Notes Parker Solar Probe Instrument...
    by Denise Hill on February 17, 2023 at 9:09 pm

    An instrument on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was powered off by the spacecraft autonomy system on Feb. 12. It happened during the application of an approved flight software patch to the Energetic Particle Instrument (EPI-Hi). The instrument team determined the instrument was power cycled prematurely before the patch was completely loaded. The instrument will remain …

  • Parker Solar Probe Embarks on 14th Close...
    by Denise Hill on December 13, 2022 at 6:14 pm

    On Dec. 6, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe began the 14th of 24 planned close approaches to the Sun, eventually coming within 5.3 million miles of the solar surface. The closest approach – called perihelion – occurred on Dec. 11 at 8:16 a.m. EST, during which the spacecraft traveled at 364,639 miles per hour – fast …

  • Parker Solar Probe’s Upcoming Close Encounter...
    by Denise Hill on August 31, 2022 at 8:44 pm

    As NASA’s Parker Solar Probe approaches its 13th perihelion, or close encounter, with the Sun on Sept. 6, it is heading into a much different solar environment than ever before. NASA reported earlier this summer that Solar Cycle 25 is already exceeding predictions for solar activity, even with solar maximum not to come for another …

  • Parker Solar Probe Thriving Four Years after...
    by Abbey Interrante on August 12, 2022 at 5:11 pm

    As it orbits the Sun, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe encounters some of the most challenging conditions ever faced by a spacecraft: temperatures up to nearly 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (800 degrees Celsius), space dust that could easily degrade materials and instruments, and intense light and high-speed particles escaping from our closest star. But four years after …

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