The probe won’t exactly touch the sun or its 900,00 degree to 2 million degrees aura called the solar corona, even despite all the revolutionary thermal engineering, it will only get as close as 3.8 million miles away from the sun, given the central star’s intense heat, and that’s only so long as everything goes right. But the aim of the Parker Solr Probe mission is to hopefully help space scientists understand why the solar corona is so impossibly hot, along with what causes supersonic solar wind and other natural mysteries. The probe will orbit within 3.9 million miles of the sun’s surface in 2024, closer to the star than Mercury. Although that sounds far, researchers equate this to the probe sitting on the 4-yard line of a football field and the sun being the end zone.
The Parker Solar Probe’s launch marked a special milestone for one solar scientist – Eugene Parker. After all, the spacecraft is named in his honor. Sixty years ago, it was Parker who first proposed that the sun sent a stream of solar wind and it is NASA’s first ever named after a living person.