NASA Will Launch New Mission to Study Closely the Sun's Atmosphere

Mindy Sparks
August 11, 2018

The Parker Solar Probe launches from Cape Canaveral on Saturday and, if successful, will travel seven times closer to the sun than any other spacecraft, at 3.8 million miles from the surface.

Over the course of its mission, the Parker Solar Probe will orbit the sun 24 times while being subjected to extreme heat and radiation, with temperatures expected to reach 1,377C, almost hot enough to melt steel.

The spacecraft will fly through the Sun's atmosphere as close as 3.8 million miles to our star's surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before. During his seven-year mission, the spacecraft intends to go through the corona 24 times.

Scientists want to examine the sun as the world has become ever more dependent on technology both in orbit and on our planet's surface that is vulnerable to solar activity. That's equivalent to going from Washington, D.C., to Philadelphia in a split second.

Poking out over the heat shield, an instrument known as the Faraday cup will take measurements of the solar winds, a flow of ionised gases from the sun that streams past Earth at a million miles per hour.

The 11cm-tick carbon-composite heat shield will protect the probe, which is the size of a vehicle, from outside temperatures of up to 1,377C.

The final result sees the front and back of the heat shield made of carbon-carbon - a material designed for scorching temperatures.


The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.

NASA calls this mismatch "the coronal heating problem", and hopes the Parker Solar Probe will solve the mystery of why the corona reaches temperatures of up to 10 million degrees Fahrenheit.

Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its unsafe journey.

He added: 'By understanding the solar wind in better detail, how it is accelerated namely, it will open up the possibility of using it to accelerate space craft like the one proposed in the LightSail project'.

Inside the Parker Solar Probe temperatures should stay around 30C. "It's a new frontier", said James Garvin, chief scientist for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Dr Nicky Fox, project scientist at the John Hopkins University said: "We've been studying the Sun for decades, and now we're finally going to go where the action is".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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