Published: Sun, August 12, 2018
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Lift-Off! NASA Launches Parker Solar Probe To 'Touch The Sun'

Lift-Off! NASA Launches Parker Solar Probe To 'Touch The Sun'

The Parker Solar Probe took off this morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after NASA was forced to postpone the launch on August 11.

Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, said: 'The sun is full of mysteries.

Parker Solar Probe will explore the corona, a region of the Sun only seen from Earth when the Moon blocks out the Sun's bright face during total solar eclipses.

To shield the probe from the Sun's intense heat and radiation, the Parker probe is armed with a novel carbon-composite shield.

The probe will dip inside this tenuous atmosphere, sampling conditions, and getting to just 6.16 million km (3.83 million miles) from the Sun's broiling "surface".

Altogether, it will make 24 close approaches over the next seven years.

NASA hope the breakthrough journey will reveal why the sun's outer layer - the corona - is hotter than the surface.

Perhaps most important for us humans, the science undertaken with the help of the Parker Solar Probe will likely improve our ability to forecast space weather - including solar flares that can disrupt signals from satellites and, in extreme cases, can even blow out transformers on our terrestrial power grids.


"During summer, Earth and the other planets in our solar system are in the most favourable alignment to allow us to get close to the Sun". A key question that the probe seeks to answer is how solar wind is accelerated, and for the first time it will be able to look for answers at the source of solar wind itself.

Parker, now 91, recalled that at first some people did not believe in his theory.

"It was just a matter of sitting out the deniers for four years until the Venus Mariner 2 spacecraft showed that, by golly, there was a solar wind", Parker said earlier this week.

The probe is the first NASA spacecraft with a living namesake.

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will have to survive hard heat and radiation conditions.

Parker said last week that he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine".

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object. "Each time we fly by, we get closer and closer to the Sun".

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