A NASA Spacecraft Flies Right Through the Sun Explosion and Captures Incredible Footage

NASA Spacecraft
An artist’s conception of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe passing near the sun’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA

A robust NASA spacecraft navigated through and survived a massive solar outburst.

A rare video of this solar phenomenon, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), which is the explosion of a mass of extremely hot gas (plasma), was just made public by scientists. According to Mark Miesch, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, “It’s like scooping up a piece of the sun and ejecting it into space.”

It was “one of the most powerful coronal mass ejections (CMEs) ever recorded,” according to NASA, and it happened in September 2022. Thankfully, the space agency’s Parker Solar Probe, which is equipped with a sturdy thermal shield, is made to survive such high radiation bursts. The ground-breaking probe is carefully observing the sun’s activities.

You may see the following in the video that Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, a team member on the solar probe’s scientific team, uploaded online:

  • The position of our star is apparent on the left of the screen, but the real sun is not visible in the photograph.
  • The CME starts to emerge from left to right about 14 seconds in. Next, BAM.
  • At the end of the video, the probe emerges after passing through the explosion.

This wasn’t a simple task. The Johns Hopkins lab said that Parker was the first spacecraft to ever fly through a strong solar explosion close to the sun. Parker spent around two days monitoring the CME in all.

In order to better understand the behavior of potentially harmful CMEs and other kinds of space weather, such as solar flares (energy bursts from the sun’s surface), scientists are using observations from the Parker Solar Probe as well as those from other spacecraft and observatories. For instance, CMEs “can endanger satellites, disrupt communications and navigation technologies, and even knock out power grids on Earth,” according to NASA. Famously, a strong CME in 1989 knocked down electricity for millions of people in Canada’s Québec. When the CME struck the Earth’s magnetic field on March 12 of that year, according to NASA astronomer Sten Odenwald, “the currents found a weakness in the electrical power grid of Québec just after 2:44 a.m. on March 13.” The whole electrical grid in Quebec lost power in less than two minutes.

Millions of people unexpectedly found themselves in dark office buildings, underground pedestrian tunnels, and halted elevators during the subsequent 12-hour blackout.

A NASA Spacecraft Flies Right Through the Sun Explosion and Captures Incredible Footage
A CME ejected from the sun’s surface on Feb. 27, 2000. Credit: SOHO ESA / NASA

“Parker’s velocity is about 8.7 miles per second, so in terms of changing the spacecraft’s speed and direction, this trajectory correction maneuver may seem insignificant,” said Yanping Guo, a mission design and navigation manager at APL. Parker’s speed and proximity to the Sun will drastically vary as a result of the maneuver, which is essential to obtaining the appropriate gravity assist at Venus.

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