NASA Enters the Solar Atmosphere for the First Time, Bringing New Discoveries

Parker Solar Probe near the sun. (Credit: NASA)

By Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — For the first time in history, a spacecraft has touched the Sun. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has now flown through the Sun’s upper atmosphere – the corona – and sampled particles and magnetic fields there. 

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. 

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Moon Mission Delays Could Increase Risks from Solar Storms

Artist illustration of events on the sun changing the conditions in Near-Earth space. A new study finds daily U.S. economic cost from solar storm-induced electricity blackouts could be in the tens of billions of dollars. (Credit: NASA)

REDDING, UK (University of Redding PR) — Planned missions to return humans to the Moon need to hurry up to avoid hitting one of the busiest periods for extreme space weather, according to scientists conducting the most in-depth ever look at solar storm timing.

Scientists at the University of Reading studied 150 years of space weather data to investigate patterns in the timing of the most extreme events, which can be extremely dangerous to astronauts and satellites, and even disrupt power grids if they arrive at Earth.

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Video: 5 Things to Know About Space Weather

Video Caption: Want to know more about space weather? Comment with your questions for a Q&A with NOAA space weather experts.

Just like we experience weather on Earth, there’s weather in space! The Sun may look very constant and quiet from Earth, but it’s constantly spewing out a stream of particles called the solar wind. Space weather is activity on the Sun that can affect Earth and interact with our technology.

Learn more: https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/space-wea…

Top 5 Times Solar Activity Affected Earth

The Sun sends out a constant stream of particles and energy, which drives a complex space weather system near Earth and can affect spacecraft and astronauts. NASA has chosen five new mission concept studies for further development to study various aspects of this dynamic system. (Credits: NASA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — Over the course of the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle, the star goes through a period of increased and decreased activity. When this activity ramps up, sometimes phenomena such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), where massive amounts of radiation and solar particles erupt out from the Sun’s surface, can wreak havoc if our planet happens to be in the way of the blast.

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Solar Cycle 25 Is Here. NASA, NOAA Scientists Explain What That Means

This split image shows the difference between an active Sun during solar maximum (on the left, captured in April 2014) and a quiet Sun during solar minimum (on the right, captured in December 2019). December 2019 marks the beginning of Solar Cycle 25, and the Sun’s activity will once again ramp up until solar maximum, predicted for 2025. (Credits: NASA/SDO)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Solar Cycle 25 has begun. During a media event on Tuesday, experts from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discussed their analysis and predictions about the new solar cycle – and how the coming upswing in space weather will impact our lives and technology on Earth, as well as astronauts in space.

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What’s the Big Deal about Solar Cycles?

Sun and Earth (Credit: NOAA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. (NOAA PR) — The Sun is Earth’s nearest star—a giant orb of hydrogen and helium about 93 million miles away. To many people, it looks like the same constant ball of light day after day as it moves across the sky. However, our Sun actually goes through a cycle of increasing and decreasing activity that lasts for about 11 years.

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