3. Throwback Thursday: Since it was lifted into space on August 12, 2018, the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) has had two close encounters with the sun – in November and in April.
The spacecraft has sent 22 gigabytes of data from these flybys on wind plasma, electric and magnetic fields, solar radio emission, and structures in the Sun's hot outer atmosphere, the corona.
This treasure trove of information could help astronomers understand why the sun's corona is much hotter than its surface.
"Flying close to the Sun — a very dangerous environment — is the only way to obtain this data, and the spacecraft is performing with flying colors," said PSP project scientist Nour Raouafi.
The probe is now preparing for another close encounter with the sun that will culminate in its third perihelion on Sept. 1.
In 2021, it is slated to enter the "zone of preferential heating," an area of the sun's atmosphere where temperatures rise.
The high temperatures there are the reason why the solar atmosphere swells to many times the diameter of the sun and astronomers are confident that the probe will be able to collect data to explain this phenomenon.
"In just two more years, [the] Parker Solar Probe will finally reveal the answer," said Justin Kasper, a University of Michigan professor of climate and space sciences and a principal investigator for the Parker mission.
One more thing, did you know that the PSP is the first NASA spacecraft to be named after a living person? That's right. Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the solar wind.