Thanks to NASA’s cutting-edge Parker Solar Probe, we now have the highest-quality images of the Sun ever taken by humans.
During its first two passes by the star at the center of our solar system, the Parker probe was closer to the Sun than any previous human-made objects. This has offered NASA’s scientists an unprecedented look at our star.
What’s So Special About the Parker Solar Probe?
The Parker Solar Probe launched in August of 2018 on a seven-year mission to study solar winds and the sun’s corona. Equipped with state-of-the-art scientific equipment, the probe’s mission brings it within 23 million miles of the star Sol as it spins in the center of our system.
The equipment onboard the probe is all highly specialized and geared toward harvesting as much data as possible during relatively short close passes of the sun.
This is because close proximity to the sun, as you might expect, can quickly melt and destroy any sensitive scientific equipment. That equipment includes four different experiments. Those are Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation, which measures solar wind particles, Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun, which measure highly-charged solar particles, Fields Experiment, which measures various magnetic fields, and the Wide-Field Imager, which shows images of the solar wind.
Solar Probe Research Excites Scientists
At the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the Parker Solar Probe project plays out in a way that might not seem cinematic or flashy. Scientists study ostensibly dry readings from the probe, deriving meaning from strings of data that would confuse or bore most.
But Nour E. Raouafi, one of the project scientists, is particularly excited about the probe’s potential.
“Parker Solar Probe is crossing new frontiers of space exploration, giving us so much new information about the sun,” Raouafi explains.
“Releasing this data to the public will allow them not only to contribute to the success of the mission along with the scientific community, but also to raise the opportunity for new discoveries to the next level.”
The raw data from the probe is now available to the public, though it might be a bit difficult to parse all of the information.