Solar so good...new probe heads for sun

Terry Joseph
August 15, 2018

The early morning launch countdown was halted with just one minute, 55 seconds remaining, keeping the Delta IV rocket on its pad with the Parker Solar Probe.

It will also be the fastest human made object traveling at 430,000 miles (6,92,000 kms) per hour, according to Korreck, who is part of the mission.

The lift-off took place from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the U.S. early on Sunday. Saturday's launch attempt encountered a series of snags; in the end, controllers ran out of time. Subsequently, this will help scientists to understand the principles of interaction of the corona of the Sun the photosphere and the upper layers of the star, and figure out how to form particles of the solar wind.

With NASA launching a historic Parker Solar Probe deeper into the solar atmosphere than any mission before it, the question arises: Why won't it melt?

On the final three orbits, PSP flies to within 3.8 million miles of the sun's surface - more than seven times closer than the current record-holder for a close solar pass, the Helios 2 spacecraft, which came within 27 million miles in 1976, and about a tenth as close as Mercury, which is, on average, about 36 million miles from the Sun. That may sound like a lot of distance, but the corona of the sun is hotter than the surface of the sun itself; its temperature is measured in the millions of degrees.

The Parker Solar Probe's departure promises to set a plethora of records, including speediest spacecraft, highest velocity while leaving Earth and closest solar approach.

"To me, it's still mind-blowing", she said.

Nasa has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to "touch the Sun".

This lightweight insulation will be accompanied by a finishing touch of white ceramic paint on the sun-facing plate, to reflect as much heat as possible.

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"We've been inside the orbit of Mercury and done wonderful things, but until you go and touch the sun, you can't answer these questions", said Nicola Fox, mission project scientist.

What does Parker Solar Probe mean for humanity?

They are also curious about the solar winds that sometimes disrupt satellite and ground communications. The mission's scientific objectives, inspired by the groundbreaking theories of physicist Eugene Newman Parker, will contribute to forecasts of solar events that can affect technology here on Earth.

This is the first NASA mission that has been named for a living individual.

According to the European Space Agency, Solar Orbiter will have a almost identical rotation period as the sun for several days, allowing scientists to - for the first time - see solar storms develop from close range.

A highly advanced heat shield just 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick was devised to keep the probe from melting. The trick was making the spacecraft small, compact and light enough to travel at incredible speeds, while surviving the sun's punishing environment and the extreme change in temperature when the spacecraft is out near Venus.

"Our instrument pokes around the heat shield, looks directly at the sun... it really is just a cup, and particles just kinda flow into it and we catch them, and count how many of them there are".

"I'll bet you 10 bucks it works", Parker said.

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