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The greatest missions to the sun of all time

Parker Solar Probe (2018-present)

Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben/NASA

Parker Solar Probe launched in August 2018 to get closer to the sun than ever before. It will "touch" material from the corona, zooming in as close as 3.8 million miles (6.1 million kilometers) to the sun's photosphere, according to NASA. Over seven years, the spacecraft will make flybys of Venus to pull its orbit ever closer to the sun, providing an unprecedented close-up look at the corona and the origins of the solar wind.

Related: Read more about Parker Solar Probe

Solar Orbiter (2020-present)


Solar Orbiter is an ESA-led mission to examine how the sun generates the heliosphere, as well as the solar wind, energetic particles and other emissions from the sun. The mission launched in 2020. "Being close to the Sun allows for observations of solar surface features and their connection to the heliosphere for much longer periods than from near-Earth vantage points. The view of the solar poles will help us to understand how dynamo processes generate the sun's magnetic field," ESA stated.

Related: Read more about Solar Orbiter

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Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.