Solar so good...new probe heads for sun

14 August, 2018, 08:25 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Parker Solar Probe

But that was her reaction in the wee hours today (Aug. 12) as she watched NASA's Parker Solar Probe launch on an unprecedented mission to the sun.

The unprecedented sun-skimming probe that lifted off today from the U.S. is set to study the "solar winds" proposed in the paper by Dr Eugene Newman Parker, who has now become the first living scientist to have mission named after him.

Nasa has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to "touch the Sun", In reality, it should come within 6.16 million km of the Sun's surface, close enough to study the curious phenomenon of the solar wind and the corona, which is 300 times hotter than the surface of the Sun.

A launch attempt the day before was foiled by a last-minute technical issue.

"The spacecraft must operate in the sun's corona, where temperatures can reach millions of degrees", Brown told ABC News via email. "Parker Solar Probe has begun its mission to "touch" the Sun", NASA said in a blog post, about two hours after the lift off. "We're in for some learning over the next several years", said Eugene Parker, the 91-year-old astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named. Sixty years ago, it was Parker who first proposed that the sun sent out a stream of solar wind. This will allow SWEAP to sweep up a sample of the atmosphere of the sun, our star, for the first time at these distances.

Weighing just 635 kgs, it is a relatively light spacecraft, Andy Driesman, project manager for the mission at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in the USA, said in an earlier statement. We've studied it from missions that are close in, even as close as the planet Mercury. "Congratulations to our team and mission partners, we are proud to launch this exceptional spacecraft that will provide invaluable scientific information benefiting all of humankind".

"The spacecraft is power positive and that's where we want to be", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's science mission directorate. Along the way, the spacecraft will gather data to try and solve some of the sun's great mysteries.

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Main objectives of Parker Solar Probe?

That will make it the fastest ever human-made object, speedy enough to travel from NY to Tokyo in one minute. "But we have to go there".

Although the probe itself is about the size of a vehicle, a powerful rocket is needed to escape Earth's orbit, change direction and reach the sun. If there's any tilting, the spacecraft will correct itself so nothing gets fried. The Johns Hopkins flight controllers in Laurel, Md., will be too far away to help.

However the technology to make the spacecraft small and light enough to travel at incredible speeds - while surviving the sun's punishing environment and the extreme changes in temperature - are only now possible.

"So we're already in a region of very, very interesting coronal area", Fox said.

PSP is carrying four instrument suites created to study the sun's magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind. As you might guess, NASA is relying on automation to make this work.

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