PSP "Touches the Sun"

As announced this week by NASA, Parker Solar Probe officially "touched the Sun" as passed just 18.8 solar radii (approximately 8.1 million miles) above the solar surface. During this and every passage by the Sun that PSP has taken, NRL's WISPR camera has been observing the solar structures and outflows with its two wide-field white-light imaging instruments. The below animation shows the scene as viewed by WISPR for this ninth encounter, in which you can see vast solar structures passing over the spacecraft as it races through the Sun's outer atmosphere.

This animation shows all WISPR full-field observations from the ninth PSP Mission Encounter, 2021-August-08 to 2021-August-12. You can download this movie directly as a 79Mb mp4 file.

[Credit: NRL/NASA/JHUAPL. Movie processed/compiled by Guillermo Stenborg (JHUAPL) and Brendan Gallagher (NRL).]


This movie shows a combination of the two WISPR camera fields of view. The data have been processed using a technique developed by Dr. Guillermo Stenborg that enhances the visibility of the structures, while minimizing excess stray light from dust and other sources. The telescopes are designed to keep the Sun outside of the field of view, to the left of the images, so that its blinding light does not overwhelm the detector. Throughout this sequence, an extensive background star field can be seen, with the Milky Way visible from August 09 - 10. Several planets are visible too, as shown in the below still frames. Towards the end of the sequence, Jupiter can be seen "overtaking" Earth in the field of view.



A large number of bright flashes and streaks are visible throughout this sequence. These are not cosmic rays (high-energy particles) but are actually dust particles resulting from PSP impacting micrometeorites as it races through the inner solar system.