NASA's $1.5 Billion Spacecraft Just Beamed Back the Closest Picture We've Ever Taken Of The Sun

NASA has taken the closest ever image of the sun in a bid to understand the workings of our star.

The Parker Solar Probe was about 16.9 million miles (27.1 million km) from the Sun's surface when the image was taken.

This makes the probe 133 million miles (214 million km) closer to the surface of the sun than Earth is - which orbits around 150 million miles (241 million km) away.

Mercury can be seen as a bright blob in the centre of the image and the black dots are said to have been caused by 'background adjustment' from the camera.

A coronal streamer - solar material near highly active regions of the sun - can be seen as a flashing streak across the image.

Astronomers are hoping the Parker mission can provide valuable data to help understand the mysterious processes of the sun.

'Parker Solar Probe is going to a region we've never visited before,' said Terry Kucera, a solar physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

'Meanwhile, from a distance, we can observe the Sun's corona, which is driving the complex environment around Parker Solar Probe.'

Nasa hopes its Parker Probe can explain three main mysteries that have long confounded scientists.

These include: Why the corona is heated to temperatures about 300 times higher than the surface below, how the solar wind accelerates at such vast speed and how does the sun eject some particles at half the speed of light.

This image from Parker Solar Probe's WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) instrument shows a coronal streamer. Nasa said the Parker Solar Probe was about 16.9 million miles from the Sun's surface when this image was taken. Mercury can be seen in the centre of the image

Parker has only just started beaming data back to scientists back on Earth despite launching back in August.

Parker's WISPR instrument was pointed sideways from behind the dense heat shield of Parker when it captured the image.

'We don't know what to expect so close to the Sun until we get the data, and we'll probably see some new phenomena,' said Parker researcher Nour Raouafi.

'Parker is an exploration mission — the potential for new discoveries is huge.'

Measurements of the sun's atmosphere from a plethora of scientific measurements will give scientists new tools to discover how how the star operates.