This photo taken from the Skylab space station on December 19, 1973, shows one of the most spectacular solar flares ever recorded. Solar flares are sudden outbursts of energy originating on the sun’s surface and projecting far into its atmosphere. NASA’s newest solar mission, called the Parker Solar mission, launches next summer and will study solar winds, magnetic fields, energized particles and plasma.
Shelby Lin Erdman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
NASA is launching a probe to one of the most hostile environments imaginable: the sun.
It’s the first time a spacecraft will fly directly into the sun’s atmosphere, or corona, where it will encounter temperatures of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and brutal radiation levels.
The “mission will revolutionize our understanding of the sun … ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observation of a star,” NASA said in a news release about the Parker Solar Probe mission.
Researchers want to know more about how energy and heat move in the sun’s atmosphere. They also want to explore how and why solar winds and particles accelerate.
The probe will carry four instruments designed to study solar winds, plasma, magnetic fields and energetic particles when it launches sometime between July and August 2018.
Solar winds affect Earth in several ways, including the planet’s magnetic fields and what’s known as space weather.