NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is on an epic mission – it’s going to the first spacecraft to fly into the million-degree surface of the sun, it’s corona.
The spacecraft turned its WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) imaging instrument towards Earth – taking a picture which shows how tiny our planet looks from space.
The image was taken on September 25, when the probe was about 27 million miles from Earth.
NASA said, ‘The hemispherical shaped feature in the middle of the right-hand image is a lens flare, a common feature when imaging bright sources, which is caused by reflections within the lens system. In this case, the flare is due to the very bright Earthshine.’
The probe launched earlier this year, and aims to fly closer to the sun than any previous spaceship – in the process answering questions about our star.
The mission will take seven years, and will revolutionise our understanding of the sun.
The previous closest pass to the Sun was by a probe called Helios 2, which in 1976 came within 27 million miles.
By way of comparison, the average distance from the Sun for Earth is 93 million miles.
The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system.
Unpredictable solar winds cause disturbances in our planet’s magnetic field and can play havoc with communications technology on Earth.
NASA hopes the findings will enable scientists to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment.