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Parker Solar Probe Snaps a Shot of the Milky Way as It Heads for the Sun

One month after it was launched, humanity's fastest spacecraft in history, the Parker Solar Probe, sent back to Earth the first batch of data. With it came a photo of our galaxy, the Milky Way, perhaps clearer that ever captured before.
The Milky Way as seen by the Parker Solar Probe 1 photo
The Milky Way can be seen in the left of the image attached above, taken while the spacecraft was looking at the galactic center. The photo was shot using a low exposure time, because of the fact that the probe's camera was facing away from the Sun.

“There is a very distinctive cluster of stars on the overlap of the two images. The brightest is the star Antares-alpha, which is in the constellation Scorpius and is about 90 degrees from the Sun,” said in a statement Russ Howard, the man in charge with the probe's WISPR  instrument (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe).

The Parker Solar Probe has been sent into space to collect data that would allow scientists to better predict space weather events. To do this, the probe was designed to fly through the Sun’s outer atmosphere, at a proximity never achieved before, 3.8 million miles from the star's surface.

In all, it will take the Parker probe seven years to complete its mission. During this time, it will do several orbits around the sun.

As per NASA, the first of these approaches will take place this November. The probe is already recording data about what the solar wind is doing in proximity to our home planet. As it comes closer to the Sun, the orientation of the probe will change, its cameras and sensors capturing more and more of the structures flowing out from the corona.

The Parker Solar Probe was created by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which will also operate the spacecraft during its projected mission. It is part of the NASA Living with a Star Program (or LWS), meant to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. 

More details on the instruments on the Parker Solar Probe and what they are supposed to do can be found in the document attached below. 

press release
 
 
 
 
 

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