FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) — NASA’s Parker Solar Probe captured stunning images of Venus.
The Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 12, 2018 and its mission is to unlock the mysteries of the Sun's atmosphere.
Over the course of seven years, the probe will travel closer and closer to the surface of the sun.
According to NASA, the Parker Solar Probe will be closer to the surface of the sun than any spacecraft before it.
It will face brutal heat and radiation conditions to provide humanity with the closest observations of our great star.
Even though the main focus is the sun, Venus does play a critical role in the mission.
According to NASA scientists, the spacecraft will pass Venus seven times in the span of seven years and it will use the planet’s gravity to bend the spacecraft’s orbit.
This allows the probe to fly closer and closer to the Sun to study the dynamics of the solar wind and the magnetic field.
During the third flyby of Venus on July 11, 2020, the probe snapped some impressive images.
✨ Take off to the planet... Venus.
— NASA (@NASA) February 25, 2021
The onboard Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR) captured the stunning images of the planet’s nightside from 7,693 miles away.
According to NASA, the camera detected a bright rim around the edge of Venus that may be a nightglow or light emitted by oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere that recombine into molecules in the nightside.
Also spotted, was a dark feature in the center of the image known as Aphrodite Terra, which is the largest highland region on Venus.
The dark appearance is due to it being about 85 degrees colder than its surroundings.
The bright streaks were the result of charged particles reflecting sunlight and they will appear differently depending on how fast the probe is moving.
According to the NASA release, scientists were taken by surprise because the WISPR is tailored and tested for visible light observation and they expected to see clouds.
Instead, scientists looked right through to the surface of the planet.
The surprising observation led to a realization that the WISPR is sensitive to near-infrared wavelengths of light which could open up new opportunities to study dust around the Sun and in the inner solar system.
While @NASAPersevere settles into its new home on Mars, our #ParkerSolarProbe is making a quick visit to Venus. On Feb. 20, Parker performs its fourth Venus gravity assist, a maneuver that makes use of Venus’ gravity to draw its orbit closer to the Sun. https://t.co/xP0kbZIwls pic.twitter.com/y3PS7ftF5n
— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) February 19, 2021
The fourth flyby of Venus happened on February 20, 2021 and it passed the planet at a whopping 54,000 miles per hour at 1,482 miles above the surface.
According to NASA, they are expected to receive this data by the end of April.
The fourth flyby set NASA’s Parker Solar Probe up to for its eighth and ninth passes by the sun which will occur on April 29, 2021 and August 9, 2021.