NASA was going to "see" a piece of the Sun

Audrey Hill
August 12, 2018

As lovely as the corona is, it represents a massive headache for astrophysicists and solar physicists. "You go outside in Florida today the sun is hot". "Why is the corona hotter than the surface of the sun?"

There are other mysteries surrounding the corona as well.

"Where we see huge magnetic fields that are passing by us, as coronal mass ejections make their way out into the solar system".

The craft's mission is to help scientists understand more about the nature of the sun by taking measurements of solar winds, a flow of ionised gases.

What is known is the general effect of solar wind on man-made and natural systems back here on Earth.

Knowing more about the solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars. While these shows are handsome, heavy bursts of particles called solar storms have the potential to wreak havoc on the energy grid, and back in space the high-energy particles represent a serious threat to astronauts and spacecraft.

Saturday marks the day we finally send a spacecraft to the sun.

"So it's of fundamental importance for us to be able to predict this space weather much like we predict weather here on Earth".

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"We're going to explore unknown territory", said Marco Velli, a UCLA space physicist and the probe's observatory scientist.

The ambitious mission will bring the space agency's Parker Solar Probe within 3.83 million miles of the sun's surface; the closest to the star any human-made spacecraft has ever attempted to reach. The satellite will use gravity assist technology to make its closest approach to the sun in 2024. However the solar corona from which the solar winds are derived also defies the principles of physics.

Those instruments tackle four different questions about the sun. One set, called the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons, will scoop up particles to measure characteristics like their speed and temperature.

The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick. If the launch were to occur after that time, he and his colleagues are concerned that the spacecraft could potentially be damaged while flying through the Van Allen radiation belts that surround Earth.

The powerful Delta 4 Heavy, ULA's most powerful launcher, will be making only its 10th flight since 2004. And now, six decades later, a spacecraft that will revolutionize our understanding of the phenomenon is prepared to launch.

Over the course of its seven-year mission, the probe will orbit the sun 24 times, each time sweeping through the corona, where the temperature is a blistering 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 1,400 degrees Celsius).

This is not the first mission to study the Sun, but none of the previous devices did not even come close to the source of light and heat so close - only 6 million kilometers. "But it's really a beginning, because now we're trying to take the science and learn from the data that will change the view of our Sun forever".

"In a lot of ways, it's an ending, the spacecraft is going into space", said Parker Solar Probe Engineer Betsy Congdon.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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