NASA’s Solar Probe Plus spacecraft, which will embark on the world’s first mission to a star in 2018, has been christened the Parker Solar Probe in honor of MSU alumnus Eugene Parker.
Parker graduated from MSU with a degree in physics in 1948 and is recognized globally for developing solar wind theory.
When Parker began his work, space was generally believed to be a hard vacuum. Parker’s theory suggested that high-speed matter and magnetism had an affect on the planets and space within our solar system.
Parker’s theory contradicted established ideas, by arguing that there is in fact movement in outer space.
In 1962, his theory was observed to be true using satellite technology. This drastic change in scientists’ understanding of space was a watershed moment for astronomy.
The Parker Solar Probe will launch in 2018 as part of a mission to probe the outer corona of the Sun.