A NASA spacecraft got closer to the sun than any other in history this week, and it will hopefully break that record numerous times.
The sun is always there. Every day when we wake up it's daytime thanks to the sun. However, how often do we give our solar system's star any amount of thought? We know what it is, but we don't often relate the light in the sky to the images we have in our heads of what the sun looks like close up.
A size that is beyond comprehension and something that is completely comprised of dangerous and volatile gases. That's what lights our planet each and every day and without it, well, we wouldn't exist. Unlike the moon and our neighboring planets, it is difficult to discover more about the sun. It's not as simple as sending a spacecraft there to collect samples.
However, we have some good news on that front. While we may never actually land a spacecraft on the surface of the sun, a NASA probe has gotten closer to the star than ever before this week. Sky News reported that the probe got within 15 million miles of the sun. Yes, that still sounds like a pretty big distance but trust us when we say it is extremely impressive.
To give you a little perspective when it comes to distance and heat, let's take a look at the planet Mercury. It's the closest planet to the sun and the temperatures on its surface are sometimes as high as 800 degrees. The NASA probe is more than halfway to the sun if it were traveling from Mercury, so the heat its enduring is unfathomable. It also traveled at 213,000 mph to penetrate the outer solar atmosphere, another record.
The conditions are so intense right now that NASA currently can't make contact with the probe. However, scientists are naturally very excited at what it is discovering right now, as are we. What's more, the probe will hopefully break its own record time and time again over the course of the next seven years. Providing it survives, it will attempt to make 23 more approaches to the sun, each one closer than the last. It is also predicted to reach speeds of 430,000 mph by 2024.