back to article Humanity has officially touched the Sun (or, at least, one of its probes has)

NASA's Parker solar probe has become the first spacecraft to reach the Sun, after solar boffins announced the feat at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The event actually happened way back on April 28, but it took months before the data made its way back to Earth and a few more before scientists could confirm the …

  1. redpawn Silver badge

    We are lucky

    it didn't pop that giant gas bag, we'd all be toast.

    Though when I was young one of my state senators worried aloud about the danger of poking a hole in the ocean crust and having the ocean drain into it when funding for drilling samples off Hawaii was proposed.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: We are lucky

      Jules Verne described exactly that in his account about visiting the centre of the Earth.

      What do you mean, "fiction"?

      1. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: We are lucky

        Jules Verne? I thought it was Rick Wakeman.

    2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      What If?

      Randall Munroe covered this in "almost" scientific detail on page 204 of his most excellent and amusing XKCD spinoff book.

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: We are lucky

      Parker will continue to fly ever closer to the Sun until it goes down in a blaze of glory in 2025.

      What if... There is something in the composition of Parker, some material which could initiate the shutdown of the fusion reactions?

  2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    And to think, they never have done that if they went at night.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I was thinking the exact opposite. They should have visited at night. It would be so much easier to do the science stuff when the sun is turned off and it's not so hot out. Oh well, maybe the next solar mission can try that.

  3. Little Mouse Silver badge

    Well done, Parker

    F.A.B.

    1. m4r35n357

      Re: Well done, Parker

      Thenk you, bilady.

  4. Empire of the Pussycat

    I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

    set the controls for the heart of the sun

    1. Oh Matron!

      Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

      2025, according to the post

    2. steelpillow Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

      Hmm... Pink Floyd, Disaster Area or a nod to both? Icon anyway for getting in first.

      Certainly beat Steamhammer (Mountains album); "Higher, we're getting higher, we can almost touch the Sun" - sure thing Kieran, can I have some of what you're on too?

      FWIW Ray Bradbury wrote a short story about a spaceship sampling the Sun back somewhere around the 1950s. "The Golden Apples of the Sun" IIRC. Was a manned craft which extended an arm and slurped off a scoopful. He wrapped it in a load of poetic crap which I found impenetrable - something to do with the Garden of Eden and Original Sin, I guess - yawn! next story please, Mr. B.

      1. Alan J. Wylie

        Well done, Parker and Ray Bradbury wrote a short story about a spaceship sampling the Sun

        Thunderbirds, too.

      2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

        David Brin: Sundiver.

        Interesting method of cooling in that one, too...

      3. haaz
        Thumb Up

        Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

        Yes! I thought of that Bradbury story as well. It fascinated me when I discovered it in 1987, which was 7th grade for me in the U.S. school system. I think I still have that old paperback copy of "The Golden Apples of the Sun," with its dark red cover art and faded yellow type. It made such an impression on me that five years later, I performed a reading of "The Pedestrian" for the high school forensics tournament in the category for prose reading. That reading advanced me to the state championship, where I did a cutting of "A Clockwork Orange," complete with the Russian bits.

        I was the champion all right.

      4. Outski Silver badge

        Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

        Didn't the ships in Elite have scoops like that?

        1. Spherical Cow

          Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

          Yep, fuel scoops. You could refuel without having to dock, which made bounty hunting in Anarchy systems easier.

          There is an Android version you can play on your phone called Alite (sic). It's an accurate copy of the game.

          1. Mooseman Silver badge

            Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

            "There is an Android version you can play on your phone called Alite (sic). It's an accurate copy of the game."

            Also available on PC.

        2. Mine's a Large One

          Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

          They still do.

    3. haaz
      Meh

      Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

      My love for Pink Floyd must be eclipsed at the moment, as I didn't think of that song until you mentioned it!

      1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

        Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

        "My love for Pink Floyd must be eclipsed at the moment,"

        Perhaps it was obscured by clouds.

      2. steelpillow Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

        Trying to think of a smartass comeback re "the sun is eclipsed by the moon", with wittily ambiguous reference to the Dark Side, then somebody firmly handed me this icon.

        Guess I'll just go home, fire up my classic Quad 33/303 and KEF 104AB's, and pity the poor digital kiddies with their crappy little soundbars.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

          @steelpillow

          Oh for fuck's sake don't set them off. They will call you an "audiophile" when they really mean "technophile". best let them and their digital spyware alone.

          1. steelpillow Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: I do hope that at some point the order is given to...

            Haha! I am unashamedly both, and back in the day I did a bit of amateur astronomy too. And AdBlock Plus along with my email provider's spam filter and my kill file do a pretty good job.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Science.

    Science. F*?kin' love it. A proper historical moment too, easily missed. Go, humanity!

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Science.

      Sorry, I've been blinded

  6. stuartnz
    Pint

    27 Celsius?

    A truly astonishing feat! That sort of insulation would be perfect to "hold my beer" #tooeasy #sorrynotsorry

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: 27 Celsius?

      For comparison:

      # sysctl dev.cpu | grep temperature

      dev.cpu.7.temperature: 40.0C

      dev.cpu.6.temperature: 41.0C

      dev.cpu.5.temperature: 52.0C

      dev.cpu.4.temperature: 52.0C

      dev.cpu.3.temperature: 41.0C

      dev.cpu.2.temperature: 41.0C

      dev.cpu.1.temperature: 41.0C

      dev.cpu.0.temperature: 40.0C

      and that's in my office, not in (very) direct sunlight.

    2. Potemkine! Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: 27 Celsius?

      Yes, congratulations to the thermal engineers, they made an astonishing job!

  7. Alan J. Wylie

    Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

    Graphic illustration by Jorge Cham, aka PHD Comics

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

      Hmm! I was hotter here in Australia today than if I was perched on the back of Parker while "touching" the sun. That's some impressive heatshielding. Especially considering it's basically in a thermos flask.

      Mind you, I fled indoors to the aircon -- not sure if Parker's fitted with that. Might have to wait till Parker 2.0.

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

        The only real heat there is radiation, and that's relatively straightforward to shield against. Still impressive, mind you, but remember how cold the moon's surface gets at "night".

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
          Angel

          Re: Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

          > but remember how cold the moon's surface gets at "night".

          Oh god yeah, that bloody awful camping trip last summer. Froze my nuts off. Slathered in SPF1,000, holding my breath for a month, didn't think to bring a bloody blanket, did I? The campfire was completely useless, I'm not gonna bother with it next time. At least it didn't rain, that's something.

          icon for orbit --->

      2. Richard Boyce

        Re: Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

        If it were in a thermos flask, it would cook itself with the heat from its own energy use. It radiates that heat into space while mostly in the shadow of the shield.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

          But it IS in a thermos flask -- a thermos flask's insulation layer is vacuum. Your tea is kept piping hot by wrapping a layer of outer space around it.

          That's why I'm so impressed by the 32C external rear temp. I'd assumed some sort of heat-pump for the innards, but the outside is the vacuum interface and is stuck with radiation as the only heat-shedder. And _still_ only 5C hotter than the inside.

          1. Eaten Trifles

            Re: Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

            Would your thermos flask keep your tea warm for long if the environment outside the flask was only three Kelvin?

            (I don't actually know the answer to this. Does heat loss by radiation across the vacuum flask depend on the temperature differential? I'd guess it does, and the tea is normally receiving almost as much energy radiated in as it loses by radiating out - which won't happen in outer space.)

            1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

              Re: Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

              > Would your thermos flask keep your tea warm for long if the environment outside the flask was only three Kelvin?

              Hmm. Had to think this through. My initial reaction was: yes because only radiation, not conduction or its big-brother convection.* But I think that's wrong -- pls check my work:

              Posit: a _perfect_ thermos flask, with the inner bottle magically suspended in vacuum without touching the outer bottle. So the only temp.change is via radiation.

              But it is also surrounded by matter which is itself radiating in infrared: the outer bottle (room temperature). The net effect on the inner bottle's temp is the _net_ radiation, the difference b/w outgoing & incoming radiation.

              So the inner bottle temperature will drop more slowly when temps inner&outer are close to each other, and will drop more quickly when temp.differential is high.

              So the answer to your question is: no.

              And since a real-world thermos flask has something holding the inner bottle in place, thus providing a Conduction link to the outside world: more no.

              Am I missing something obvious there?

              * Convection keeping the temp.gradient for conduction to a fluid** at about its average temp.

              ** Fun Fact: if it wasn't for the combination of convection + water's flipping back&forth between evaporating at ground level and condensing at troposphere level (operating as a toggling temperature-battery on the convection conveyorbelt, supercharging the heatpump), the Greenhouse Effect of water vapour assisted by CO2 would mean earth's average surface temp would be 60°C (140°F). You could poach an egg by biffing it outside. Instead, courtesy of convection+watertoggling, we are at ~14°C (57°F).

              1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                Re: Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

                > Am I missing something obvious there?

                Oh wait, you asked re an Absolute time, not a Relative one.

                Re the Absolute time @3K, and whether that counts as "long [enough]": no idea. We'd need some actual measured benchmark numbers to estimate it, say time for a given flask's contents to drop to 40C when surroundings are 30C, 20C, 10C, & 0C and see if we can extrapolate a further 270K.

                1. Eaten Trifles

                  Re: Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

                  Your thinking appears to be on the same lines as mine regarding the effect of external temperature on the balance of radiation coming in and going out. Not sure you could do your experiment in a way that would give you confidence, as a real-world flask will be losing temperature by conduction too.

                  I think you just convinced yourself that the space probe can quite effectively dump heat into the vacuum of space though. Just as well, since that's what the actual probe is doing.

                  1. This post has been deleted by its author

                  2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                    Re: Jorge Cham's graphical illustration

                    > I think you just convinced yourself that the space probe can quite effectively dump heat into the vacuum of space though. Just as well, since that's what the actual probe is doing.

                    ?? Errr... what made you think I thought it could not lose heat? It loses heat by radiation, same as a thermos flask. But same as a thermos flask, because it's only radiation it's very slow compared to conduction so "stays hotter longer". So depends what you mean by effective -- it's so slow that it has to be doubly careful to keep the accumulating nett of sun-rate less radiation-rate below its max.heat.limit at/after perigee.

  8. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Why did it take months for the data to get back to earth? Did they have to wait for suitable position of planet and probe?

    1. breakfast

      From what I understand it takes a while for data to get back, but then they spend a lot of time going through and analysing that data to confirm exactly what it was doing- hence the article mentioning the last couple of flybys may have touched the Sun but they aren't certain yet.

    2. DJO Silver badge

      First the craft has to get as far from the sun as possible, that thing emits a fair bit of radiation which would swamp any signal sent from close to the "surface".

      Next line of sight between craft and receiver on Earth is needed.

      Lastly there is a ton of data sent, it can take months before it is all processed.

      1. HildyJ Silver badge
        Joke

        All true.

        But I prefer to think that they exceeded their telco data limits and were subject to throttling.

  9. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Parker "will link directly into the question – are we alone in this universe?"

    Someone's gone a bit too Brian Cox Wonders of the Cosmos here - How exactly is flying a probe into the sun's corona going to provide any evidence whatsoever for life on other planets?

    It's already impressive, no need to overexcitedly overdo it.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Parker "will link directly into the question – are we alone in this universe?"

      They might discover a C'Tan?

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Parker "will link directly into the question – are we alone in this universe?"

      It's more detail about how stars work, thus more precise estimate of some elements of the Drake Equation.

  10. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    "our Sun is the only one known to harbor life"

    Isn't it a wonderful coincidence that our Sun happens to be the only one known to harbour life? It would be so inconvenient if we only knew a different one did.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: "our Sun is the only one known to harbor life"

      Only inconvenient if you forgot to lube the probe!

  11. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Loading Commander Jameson...

    Did it test the fuel scoops?

    1. oliversalmon

      Re: Loading Commander Jameson...

      Thanks for the Elite reference, but how did Elite go from the greatest game of the home computer era to a so complex it can't be played modern form?

    2. Outski Silver badge

      Re: Loading Commander Jameson...

      Hadn't got to this comment when I replied to an earlier comment...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Loading Commander Jameson...

      @Aristotles

      I assume you mean't the scoops the ship used to refuel in "Stargate universe"?

    4. Spherical Cow

      Re: Loading Commander Jameson...

      There is an Android version you can play on your phone called Alite (sic). It's an accurate copy of the game.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Loading Commander Jameson...

        Interesting! A pity it seems to be a WIP not updated since 2016.

      2. Mooseman Silver badge

        Re: Loading Commander Jameson...

        Edit: there's a PC version called "oolite" as well. I discovered that my insouciant attempt to enter the space station without using the docking computer were entirely based on having the reaction time of a much younger man....

  12. cdilla

    So many of my favourites things wrapped up in this story.

    Humour - HHGTTG: Heart of Gold and Disaster Area

    Storytelling - Ray Bradbury: Golden Apples of the Sun

    ScienceFi - David Brin: Sundiver

    What days we live in. Sun skimming, Pandemic, Climate Change, Fools on the Hill governing the country.

    1. Roger Kynaston Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: so many favourite things

      I agree mostly though the fools are not just on the hill.

      We have an unkempt moron in Downing St., a sociopathic nighlist in the Kremlin and an uber nationalist in Beijing. To say nothing of a corrupt thug in Brasilia.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: so many favourite things

        Using Chickenman's voice...."They're everywhere! They're everywhere!"

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: so many favourite things

          Funny, I was seeing the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in my mind :-)

  13. ThatOne Silver badge
    Joke

    Sorry, can't resist

    > the spacecraft entered the star's corona

    ...and the star said: "Yikes, there is a probe in my beer!"

    1. tonique
      Joke

      Re: Sorry, can't resist

      Currently I'd be more concerned if the Parker probe unleashes a new coronavirus.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Don't worry

        We can always toss it into the nearest star if it does.

        Or if it doesn't.

        Either way, it'll be properly sterilised.

  14. Dr. G. Freeman

    I think I'll lower the tone here, on this brilliant achievement.

    Now that the heat of the sun has killed off anything on the probe, will it now be doing the 1-ply experiment and touching the 7th Planet ?

  15. Willybee

    Fluctuations in Solar Activity are the True Cause of "Climate Change".

    Seismic Events, and Especially Volcanic Eruptions play a major part too.

    1. Spherical Cow

      We'll stick to real science around here thanks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Achh, hot potato.

        ... unfortunately climatology isn't real science either. More like pseudo-science like astrology or skientology.

        They don't have any proven theory, no correct predictions and whole pile of shit is based on *numerical model*, for f**ks sake!

        That's *engineering tool* and it's used only when you've no f***ing clue what is causing what. In scientific terms numerical model is barely a hypothesis, not a theory. And 'reseach' isn't even hypothesis, it's at even lower step at stairs to actual science.

        Not even a *proven hypothesis* as *all* predicitions have been seriously wrong. Every one of them. To me, as a scientist, that's kind of problem: If I present BS instead of correct predictions, I get fired. Obviously IPCC isn't.

        Anyone can slap a pile of numbers into curve fitting program and call it 'numerical model'. Even me, I've done that and got about correct results, too. IPCC can't do even that, despite 30 years of trying.

        Remember the hockey stick curve? It was pure BS, but the idea of it still lives because money IPCC gets for selling CO2 emission permissions.

        Always *follow the money*.

        Notice that warming is/was obvious, I'm strictly talking about so called science used to trying to explain it. Because in actual science you've a theory and a formula derived from the theory, like temp = correction factor* CO2 concentration squared.

        Simple, eh? Where is that formula?

        On the other hand Solar fluctuations are easy to measure directly and SOHO satellite is doing exactly that. That's hard evidence.

        Also astronomers did tell us that there was 2% increase in it, in 1990s. You tell us they are wrong, like IPCC already did? I wonder what kind of qualifications they had for doing so.

        Obviously climatology is so difficult no-one ever is qualified to question their BS methods, according to IPCC.

        By now it's no more than a pseudo-scientific cult. Funded by governments raking billions and billions in various CO2-related taxes.

        *Follow the money*. The difference to skientology is getting very, very thin.

        The common thing: Believers believe, no matter what. In actual science you prove stuff and when it's proven, there's no room for a) belief nor b) doubt.

        Climatologist have absolutely no proof whatsoever. If they had, they'd have a proven theory generating correct predictions (up to 4 decimal positions), instead of numerical models.

        1. Mooseman Silver badge

          Re: Achh, hot potato.

          The usual denial of reality I see - I dont see the problem, really. Either WE are changing the climate (and solar fluctuations don't really account for the rapid temperature rises we are seeing) and need to do something to limit the damage, or in the remote chance that it ISN'T us, then we will end up with a cleaner planet. Win-Win. However, I do adimre the ability of people like you to simply put your fingers in your ears and go la-la-la when the overwhelming majority of scientists across the planet agree that humanity is at least partly responsible, and I'd be willing to bet that 99.9999% of them aren't paid to say it by anybody, unlike the "scientists" employed by petrochemical companies or countries with a vested interest in making as much money out of fossil fuels as they can.

    2. Toni the terrible

      and cow farts

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