NASA's Parker Solar Probe is on a mission to investigate the corona of the sun (in fact the atmosphere) and the robotic spacecraft has recently made the closest approach to a star. NASA has just shared a remarkable photo by Parker: the first photo ever made within the corona of the sun.
"[T]The scientific data from the first encounter with the sun are just in the hands of the scientists of the mission, "writes NASA." It is a moment when many in the field have been anticipating for years, thinking of what they will do with such never previously presented data, which have the potential to shed new light on the physics of our star, the sun.
"The imagers of Parker Solar Probe […] will get a new perspective on the young solar wind and get a picture of how it evolves when Parker Solar Probe travels through the solar corona. "
The photo above was made on November 8, 2018, while Parker was about 16.9 million miles from the surface of the sun. For reference only, the diameter of the sun is 860,000 miles and the distance from the earth until the sun is about 91 million kilometers.
In the middle of the frame there are at least two ejections of solar material, known as coronal streamers, which are usually found in areas with increased solar activity.
And that light spot that you see directly under a streamer? That is Mercury, the first planet of the sun.
Parker is as far as 4.3 million miles (6.9m km) from the center of the sun, traveling as fast as 430,000 mph (690,000 km / h) in the process.
(via NASA via Engadget)
Post Scriptum As an aside, Parker is the first NASA spacecraft ever to be named after a living person. It was named in honor of emeritus professor University of Chicago and physicist Eugene Parker. Mounted on the spacecraft is a memory card with photos from Parker, the names of 1.1 million people and Parkers scientific paper from 1958 that predicted important things in solar physics.
Images credits: Photograph by NASA / Naval Research Laboratory / Parker Solar Probe