The Secret Behind NASA’s Parker Solar Probe

16 August, 2018, 02:14 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

The Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft the size of a small auto, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, on a seven-year mission.

The Parker probe - set atop a giant United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket - cost $1.5 billion Dollars. Over the next two months, the spacecraft will make its way towards Venus, where it will use the planet's gravity to enter into a tight orbit around the Sun. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.

A NASA space probe, designed in part at the University of Iowa, was launched Sunday on a mission to the sun. Sixty years ago, it was Parker who first proposed that the sun sent out a stream of solar wind.

Solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, after whom the mission was named, was among the attendees of the lift-off.

The satellite was due to lift off on Saturday, but a technical fault forced the U.S. space agency to postpone the launch, The Guardian reports.

"Congratulations to Decatur-based United Launch Alliance on successfully launching the * a class="_58cn" href="https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/parkersolarprobe?source=feed_text" data-ft="{"tn":"*N","type":104}" *#ParkerSolarProbe, which will study the sun's outer atmosphere and space weather.

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"That's a relatively light spacecraft", according to Andy Driesman, project manager for the mission at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

The Parker Solar Probe will soon be speeding toward the Sun at 430,000 miles per hour (192 km/s) - breaking the previous record held by the Helios-B spacecraft and making it the fastest spacecraft to date. The Parker probe will only get as close as 3.8 million miles away from the sun, given the central star's intense heat - and that's only so long as everything goes right.

Another challenge came in the form of the electronic wiring - most cables would melt from exposure to heat radiation at such close proximity to the Sun. These solar winds, if big enough, can rattle the Earth's magnetic field and disrupt satellites, communications and power grids. Among the puzzlers: Why is the corona hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun and why is the sun's atmosphere continually expanding and accelerating, as the University of Chicago's Parker accurately predicted in 1958? Find us on Facebook too!

Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites created to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind.

Back in March, NASA invited members of the public to submit their names to be included on a memory card that is now mounted on the Parker Probe as it hurtles through space.

It was the first time NASA named a spacecraft after someone still alive, and Parker wasn't about to let it take off without him.

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