NASA launches Parker Solar Probe in mission to 'touch' the Sun

14 August, 2018, 23:11 | Author: Chad Warren
  • Parker Solar Probe

Three months later, Parker Solar Probe will reach its first close approach of the Sun in November 2018, and will send the data back in December.

It will also be the fastest-moving man-made object in space.

NASA chief of the science mission directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said Parker is an "incredible hero of our scientific community". Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth. A technical problem forced the agency to delay the launch that was initially scheduled for Saturday.

Physicist Eugene Parker watches the launch of the spacecraft that bears his name - NASA's Parker Solar Probe - early in the morning of August 12, 2018.

"The corona is very tenuous plasma", said Nicola Fox, the mission's project scientist from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Baltimore.

The Parker Solar Probe is a satellite about the size of the vehicle, and it is even set to become the fastest moving manmade object history as it fires towards the sun, breaking the record previously set by Pedro Obiang's absolute banger against Spurs last season. This is the agency's first mission to the sun and its outermost atmosphere, the corona.

Here, it will cross paths with Venus, and be flying within the orbit of Mercury, seven times closer to the sun than any other probe. The cup will glow red when the probe makes its closest approach to the sun, sampling the solar wind and effectively touching the sun. Solar wind is a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system and can cause havoc with communications technology on Earth.

The mission, which hopes to uncover the Sun's mysteries, will accumulate a gamut of data about its structure and magnetic and electric fields, as well as the energetic particles cruising near and away from Earth's star.

Bear in mind that this will be NASA's second attempt to launch the Parker Probe, and there is no guarantee that it will succeed.

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From Earth, it is 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) to the sun, and the Parker probe will be within 4 percent of that distance at its closest.

The Parker Solar Probe will have to travel about 430,000 miles per hour and use a high-tech heat shield to survive the trip.

"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. NASA needed the mighty 23-story rocket, plus a third stage, to get the diminutive Parker probe - the size of a small auto and well under a ton - racing toward the sun.

The solar probe is expected to gather more information about the sun than we've ever had access to before.

Eugene Parker was an astronomer at the University of Chicago in the 1950s.

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

The car-sized probe was launched aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket at 3.31 a.m.

WEB EXTRA: Hear an extended conversation between Harvard Smithsonian astrophysicist Tony Case and KLCC's Brian Bull about the Parker Solar Probe mission, his team's contribution to the project, and how he observed the 20th anniversary of the Thurston School Shooting.

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