We’ve finally touched the Sun: incredible news from NASA

The Parker Solar Probe has crossed the solar corona, the boundary point of the Sun's atmosphere, and the incredible news comes from NASA: we've finally touched the Sun

Man has arrived on the Moon. A man-made object has touched Mars, and some travel around planets much farther away. But we'd never gotten close to the Sun, for obvious reasons: heat, first and foremost, but also radiation and magnetism. That was until a few hours ago, when NASA made an incredible announcement.

NASA's incredible announcement

A few hours ago, when it was almost midnight in Italy, NASA announced that it had finally touched the Sun. For the first time in history, a spacecraft has entered the solar corona.

The solar corona is the point in the atmosphere surrounding the Sun where the magnetic and gravitational forces are so strong as to prevent solar matter in the form of particles from "escaping" and spreading into the atmosphere. It is a kind of boundary, which is also called the Alfvén surface.

The Sun has no rocky surface to touch, because it is not a planet but a star: its particles are continually drawn toward the center by the force of gravity, where they are set in motion by heat and pressure. However, they remain in the orbit of the Sun, until they reach the point where the force of gravity is not strong enough to hold them back. This is the theory behind solar flares.

The Parker Solar Probe, NASA's vehicle that has been on its way to this goal since 2018, had already managed to get close to the solar corona in early 2021, and its mission is not over: over the next four years it will continue to approach the Sun's surface to collect data and information.

The probe will orbit the Sun, making tighter and tighter turns: a total of 24 turns that will bring it up to within six million kilometers of the Sun's glowing surface, assuming the Parker Solar Probe can withstand the extremely high temperatures.

Where will this revolution take us

Touching with the stuff the Sun is made of can help scientists clarify how our star works, what it's made of and how it affects the Solar System.

For example, the Parker Solar Probe has already allowed astrophysicists to understand why the solar wind zig-zags as it travels around Earth and other planets. In fact, we've found that the Sun's atmosphere is not homogeneous, but made up of spikes and indentations, which could therefore influence the shape of the solar wind - which, by the way, could be why there is life on Earth.