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NASA spacecraft on mission to ‘touch the sun’ sends back first images

Rob Waugh
Contributor
The probe will fly closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft (NASA)

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is on an epic mission – it’s going to the first spacecraft to fly into the million-degree surface of the sun, it’s corona.

The probe launched earlier this year, and aims to fly closer to the sun than any previous spaceship – in the process answering questions about our star.

The mission will take seven years, and will revolutionise our understanding of the sun.

Today, the Parker Solar Probe opened its protective doors and used its Wide-field Imager to capture its first images.

The probe has sent back an image of Jupiter (NASA)

It was an important test of the spacecraft’s systems, as the telescopes sit behind the probe’s cutting edge heat shields.

The cameras performed as expected, sending back an image of the gas giant Jupiter.

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The previous closest pass to the Sun was by a probe called Helios 2, which in 1976 came within 27 million miles.

By way of comparison, the average distance from the Sun for Earth is 93 million miles.

The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system.

Unpredictable solar winds cause disturbances in our planet’s magnetic field and can play havoc with communications technology on Earth.

NASA hopes the findings will enable scientists to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment.