If you’re fair-skinned like me and visited the beach this summer, you know what kind of damage the Sun can do here on Earth, despite our planet’s protective atmosphere and magnetic field. Another 200-odd million miles farther out in the solar system, the story isn't much better: This spring, fast-moving charged particles from the Sun interfered with the Mars rover Curiosity’s computer, causing engineers to switch to a backup system. Billions and billions of miles from the Sun, the Voyager 1 probe finally stopped hearing signals from the solar wind just last summer. The Sun has a quite large sphere of influence, and the closer you get, the more dangerous the environment becomes.
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So, how close could it really get? This might depend on what happens as it sneaks up on the Sun; the probe will take a circuitous, cautious path, like a trainer slowly approaching a wary lion. The short answer is, no one is really sure.
The Sun: It's Hot
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