We're sending not one, but two probes to the sun in the next few years. Hopefully making first contact with the super-hot aliens who have been watching us from inside the solar coronas. Gallery below.
The two solar missions were discussed at a conference of solar physicists in Bournemouth this past weekend. One mission, spearheaded by the European Space Agency, will launch in 2017. Protected by a 15-inch heat shield, the solar orbiter will take pictures of the sun's poles and its surface, orbiting at a distance of 20 million miles - a third closer than Mercury. Its orbit will take it past the sun's poles. Here are some cool pics of the solar orbiter:
And then meanwhile NASA is launching a probe with the sexy, sexy name of Solar Probe Plus. Forget orbiting the sun - this baby will fly into the sun's upper atmosphere, known as the corona, and fly just 4.3 million miles above the surface. That's getting up close and personal! [Daily Telegraph]