We are lucky to live inside a great natural laboratory for plasma physics, the solar corona and its extension to Earth, the inner heliosphere. We are also lucky to live in a period when this laboratory is populated by several advanced probes in the shapes of heliophysics spacecraft. Recent missions like STEREO, SDO, SHO, and Hinode, provide coverage of the full 360-degree corona and the Sun-Earth space, 24 hours a day, every day, in high resolution, and temporal cadence. So, what are we learning about space plasmas from this great investment?
In this talk, I will provide an overview of recent advances and intriguing observations of solar and heliospheric plasmas over the last 5 years. I will then outline some key challenges, albeit from an observer's point of view, to plasma physics theories that flow from these observations and discuss possible research directions that may be initiated or affected by the near-future heliospheric missions, such as Solar Orbiter and Solar Probe Plus.
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