NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has made history – becoming the first craft to “touch” the Sun.

The probe flew through the outer atmosphere of our nearest star, in the part of the Sun known as the corona. The probe had to withstand intense heat and radiation as it plunged
through the solar atmosphere, whilst it gathered new data on how the Sun works. The daring journey took place in April, but scientists have only just been able to confirm it through analysing data sent back to Earth by the probe.

What is the Sun’s corona?

The Sun’s corona is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere. The corona is usually hidden by the bright light of the Sun’s surface. That makes it difficult to see without using special instruments. Thomas Zurbuchen, who works for the Science Mission team at NASA said the probe touching the sun is a “monumental moment for solar science and a truly remarkable feat.”

“Just as landing on the Moon allowed scientists to understand how it was formed, touching the Sun is a gigantic stride for humanity to help us uncover critical information about our closest star and its influence on the Solar System.” added Nicola Fox, the director of NASA’s heliophysics science division. Scientists say data that they get from the probe will help provide a better understanding of how the Sun works and also will help with everyday life on Earth.

Extreme space weather events can disrupt communications and satellites can be damaged. Scientists try to forecast and predict these weather events and the Parker Solar Probe means they will gain new and important information to help them do that. The Parker mission, which was launched three years ago, will continue until its final orbit in 2025.