NASA to announce first mission to touch sun

NASA to announce first mission to touch sun

Due to launch in 2018, the Parker Solar Probe will orbit within 6.2 million kilometres of the sun's surface, more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has gone before.

Nasa has announced a historic mission that will send a probe directly into the Sun's atmosphere.

"The experiments selected for [Solar Probe] are specifically created to solve two key questions of solar physics - why is the sun's outer atmosphere so much hotter than the sun's visible surface and what propels the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system?"

NASA hopes data collected during the mission will improve forecasting of weather events in space that impact life on Earth, the lives of astronauts in space and satellites, the agency said.

The heat: The probe will rely on a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite solar shield to help it withstand temperatures up to 2,550 degrees Fahrenheit, reports Orlando's WKMG.

The Space Weather Prediction Center, based in Boulder, Colo., monitors solar activity from instruments both terrestrial and in orbit, including the Deep Space Climate Observatory, which circles the Sun a million miles from Earth and can give Earthlings an hour heads-up on how serious a solar eruption might be.




In addition to the heat shield, the US$1.5 billion Solar Probe Plus (SPP) will use an active water circulation system to help protect instruments that will measure the corona's electric and magnetic fields, electron temperatures, and plasma density. "It's a testament to the importance of his body of work", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The announcement will be part of a live webcast that will be available to watch on NASA TV.

As the probe passes around the sun, it's expected to reach a velocity of up to 200 kilometres per seconds, making it the fastest man-made object ever created.

"The sun is obviously very hot - its outer atmosphere is at hundreds of thousands of degrees Kelvin, and as a result it blows a bubble into interstellar space", said Horbury. More specifically, it's launching an unmanned probe next year that will travel closer to the star than any spacecraft has done previously. Understanding the sun in greater detail can also shed light on Earth and its place in the solar system, researchers said. One would like to have more detailed measurements of what's going on in the solar wind.

NASA plans to unveil its first spacecraft to fly directly into the sun's atmosphere. But it was confirmed a few years later by observations from NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft.

The probe is now under construction and undergoing testing, according to Time.

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