The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) solar probe is the first ever to ‘touch’ the atmosphere of the Sun.
The space agency in its statement said that Parker Solar Probe flew through the Sun’s atmosphere and managed to sample particles and magnetic fields in April.
The Parker Solar Probe was launched in 2018 to explore the Sun by travelling closer to its atmosphere more than any spacecraft before.
The statement added that the new milestone marks one major step for Parker Solar Probe and one giant leap for solar science. Just as landing on the Moon allowed scientists to understand how it was formed, touching the very stuff the Sun is made of will help scientists uncover critical information about our closest star and its influence on the solar system.
The associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington Thomas Zurbuchen said the probe ‘touching the sun’ is a ‘monumental; moment’ for solar science.
The news of the first ‘touch’ has come three years after the launch of the probe and decades after it was first conceptualised.
NASA explained that, unlike Earth, the Sun doesn’t have a solid surface. But it does have a superheated atmosphere, made of solar material bound to the Sun by gravity and magnetic forces.
As rising heat and pressure push that material away from the Sun, it reaches a point where gravity and magnetic fields are too weak to contain it.