Spacecraft's trip will bring us closer to sun than ever before

Christopher Davidson
August 10, 2018

With the objective of studying more closely the Sun " s atmosphere, the USA space agency (NASA) is finalizing details today to launch the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) mission on August 10.

NASA said in a statement: "Parker Solar Probe, protected by a first-of-its-kind heat shield and other innovative technologies, will provide unprecedented information about our Sun, where changing conditions can spread out into the solar system to affect Earth and other worlds".

Understanding more about solar activity could help scientists forecast the large eruptions from the sun that pose a threat to satellite and communications systems.

"It's of fundamental importance for us to be able to predict space weather much the way we predict weather on Earth", explained Alex Young, a solar scientist at NASA.

The corona is a "very odd, unfamiliar environment for us".

NASA's Parker Solar Probe will be the first-ever mission to "touch" the sun.

The Parker Solar Probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will, as the USA space agency describes it, "touch the sun" as it flies within 3.9 million miles of the star's surface. Mission leaders say this may sound extremely impressive, but it's really particularly unsafe, given the conditions prevailing in that place, so there's a huge chance that $ 1.5 billion will be thrown into the ring.

At the point where the spacecraft will be found to make the required observations, temperatures of approximately 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) are developing.

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An artist rendition of NASA's Parker Solar Probe observing the Sun.

The mission will gather data about the sun's outermost atmosphere known as the corona.

The probe will travel at 430,000 miles an hour, faster than any spacecraft in history, and use Venus's gravity over the course of seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the sun. The spacecraft, about the size of a small vehicle, will travel directly into the sun's atmosphere about 4 million miles from our star's surface.

Dr Nicky Fox - Project scientist at the John Hopkins UniversityWhen is the Parker Solar Probe?

The probe will fly into the outer corona and is only able to get that close because of modern engineering, Garvin said.

"We need to get into this action region, where all of these mysteries are actually occurring". In order to withstand the tremendous heat and solar radiation, the Parker Solar Probe will be protected by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon composite shield. A series of instruments on board the spacecraft will measure the magnetic and electric fields, plasma waves and high energy particles. Pictures of Corona will be taken through the spacecraft and the surface will be measured.

"The goal is to have the instruments on all the time but the prime science gathering for us is about 11 days", she told reporters ahead of the launch.

A 45-minute launch window opens on Saturday at 3:48 am (0748 GMT).

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