NASA’s first image captured within the Sun’s atmosphere on November 8 was taken with the help of Israeli-engineered sensors.
The telescope on the car-sized, $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe, was fitted with sensors built by Israel’s TowerJazz in collaboration with SRI International, an independent nonprofit research center, the NoCamels technology website reported on Wednesday.
By coming closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, the unmanned probe’s main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around the Sun.
“TowerJazz has been working with SRI for several years to develop custom technology to support US government imaging applications,” the Israeli technology company had noted in an October statement.
“We are very pleased to see our teamwork take flight in this exciting endeavor by NASA.”
Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, but it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid.
But these solar outbursts are poorly understood, and knowing more about the solar wind and space storms will help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.
The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick.
The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent to up to about 500 times the Sun’s radiation on Earth.
Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).
The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission.
Its final close approach — coming just 3.83 million miles from the Sun’s surface — is expected in 2024, NASA said.
Tools on board will measure high-energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.