Nasa's coolest Parker Solar Probe to lift off and touch Sun soon

Nasa's coolest Parker Solar Probe to lift off and touch Sun soon

Nasa's coolest Parker Solar Probe to lift off and touch Sun soon

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's unique expertise in sun-viewing telescopes will be an integral part of the historic NASA Parker Solar Probe mission scheduled to launch August 11 to better understand how the Sun affects our solar system. The first data download from the Parker Solar Probe is expected in early December, after the probe reaches its first close approach of the sun in November. "You go outside in Florida today the sun is hot".

The launch of the Parker Solar Probe will set it on a journey all the way to the Sun's atmosphere, or corona - closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, NASA said in a statement. As we continue to receive data over the next seven years, scientists will hopefully start to piece together a picture of why the corona is so hot and how space weather is formed, which is critical as we venture further and further into space. NASA's probe is named for Parker, making it the first time the agency has named a mission for a living person.

How do solar winds, these currents of particles from the solar corona, form and escape into space? NASA specifically chose the rocket for this mission as the probe would require a considerable amount of thrust to be ejected out of Earth's gravitation pull and toward the sun. We've studied it from missions that are close in, even as close as the planet Mercury.

To withstand the 2500-degree heat, scientists have developed a four-inch carbon shield to keep the instruments inside the $1.5 billion probe at room temperature. The probe will contain four instrument packages created to, among other things, trace the movement of energy and heat within the corona and help scientists figure out what accelerates solar energetic particles and solar wind. In one way or another, the energy that heats the solar corona passes through the lines of the magnetic field.

This weekend, in the dark hours before dawn, NASA plans to send a spacecraft to touch the sun.

The launch is now targeted for 3.33am EDT (8.33am Irish time), with an extended launch window through to August 23. And so, these are sort of the three fundamental questions we want to address: "the speed of the solar wind, this eruptive phenomena, solar storms, and how is the corona heated?"

"That's a relatively light spacecraft", said Andy Driesman, project manager for the mission at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. It's the fastest any man-made object will have ever traveled and the probe will likely hold that title for a long time.

At Parker Solar Probe's closest approach to the Sun, temperatures on the heat shield will reach almost 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 29.4 degrees Celsius.

Understanding how the Sun's atmosphere then flows through the solar system, called space weather, is extremely important because it can have dramatic effects on communications, power and other essential technologies that the U.S. Navy fleet relies on, said Howard.

Since the mission was named in his honor a year ago, NASA has offered Parker special behind-the-scenes access to the spacecraft carrying his name.

Related news