For the first time, a NASA spacecraft will invade and touch the sun. The Parker Solar Probe will make 24 orbits of the star before gliding into the outermost part of the Sun's atmosphere, the so-called Corona, to study the sun up close. At their closest approach, the Parker Solar Probe will fly within 6 million kilometers of the sun's surface – more than eight times closer than any other spaceship and more than eight times closer than Mercury.
Starting in July 31, 2018, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Parker Solar Probe will examine how heat and energy move through the corona, exploring what accelerates the solar winds that affect Earth and other planets. The probe is named after Eugene Parker, who hypothesized that high-velocity matter and magnetism were constantly escaping the sun, and that it affected the planets and space of our entire solar system. This phenomenon is today called solar wind.
"Parker Solar Probe will answer solar physics questions that have occupied us for over six decades," explains Parker Solar Probe Project scientist Nicola Fox of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement. "It's a spacecraft full of technological breakthroughs that will solve many of the biggest mysteries around our star, including the question of why the solar corona is so much hotter than its surface, and we're very proud to have Genes name on this
Living with a Star
The sun is the primary source of light and heat on Earth, but that is not the only way it affects the planet. The solar wind is a collection of charged particles that stream out of the star and, according to NASA, travel past the earth at speeds of more than one million miles per hour (400 kilometers per second). Solar wind disturbances can shatter the planet's magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts, causing a series of changes known as space weather. Space weather can affect satellites, change their orbits, disrupt their electronics, or shorten their lifespan. Understanding how the solar wind and space weather work can help protect these valuable assets.
"Until we can explain what is going on near the Sun, we can not accurately predict space weather effects that can cause devastation," The Earth, "says John Parkinson Solar Probe website of John Hopkins University Applied Physics. [1
The Solution of Decades of Secrets
Originally Solar Probe +, The Parker Sun Probe, known attempts to give two outstanding secrets to the solar atmosphere
The first involves the corona, where temperatures are higher than the surface of the sun, a process that seems to break the laws of nature, Fox said. She likened the sun to a campfire, but when you leave the fire, you feel hotter and not cooler. The high temperature remains a mystery more than 60 years after the first measurement.
The second secret concerns the solar wind. The fast, hot wind blows charged particles, but its origin remains unknown. There is no organized wind near the surface of the sun, but when it hits the earth, the wind blows incredibly fast. Somewhere in between, an unknown agent speeds the wind. Scientists hope the new mission will help identify the driving force.
"To solve these puzzles, Solar Probe + will actually enter the corona," said program scientist Lika Guhathakurta of NASA Headquarters 2008. "That's where the plot is."
The spacecraft carries four instruments:
Solar Wind Electron Alpha and Proton Examination (SWEAP) specifically count the most abundant particles in the solar wind and measure the properties
The far field Solar Probe Plus (WISPR) is a telescope, the three-dimensional images of the solar corona and the inner heliosphere to "see" the solar wind and provide 3-D images of bumps and other structures as they move through the spacecraft ,
The Electromagnetic Fields Investigation (FIELDS) will perform direct measurements of the shockwaves of the Sun's atmospheric plasma
The Integrated Scientific Investigation of the Sun (IS [1945 IS ) consists of two instruments that take stock of the elements in the solar atmosphere with the help of a mass s spectrometer to examine charged particles near the probe. [In Photos: NASA's Parker Solar Probe in the Clean Room]
Fire and Ice
After its launch (with a window that lasts until August 19), the Parker Solar Probe will arrive in November in the sun and studied the star of 3.7 million miles (6 million) km) for seven years. Mercury, the next planet to the Sun, reaches only 47 million kilometers in its highly eccentric orbit. The spaceship will make 24 orbits around the sun, giving Venus seven gravity aids.
Flying for the first time through the corona, the probe will use a combination of measurements and imaging to revolutionize our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge and evolution of the solar wind. At the closest approach, the front of the solar shield is exposed to temperatures of up to 1,377 degrees Celsius. It is protected by a heat shield that will keep most instruments near room temperature.
"Our solar systems are operated in an extreme environment where other missions have never been operated before." Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Mary Kae Lockwood, systems engineer for space probes from Parker Solar Probe, said in a statement
these temperatures would be dangerous for conventional arrays flying on other missions, so a new technology was needed. The mission is based on a first actively cooled solar array system.
But before the spacecraft reaches the sun, it has to travel through the icy temperatures of space.
"One of the biggest challenges in testing these are the transitions from very cold to very hot in a short time," said Lockwood.
It turns out that pressurized water provides the best coolant for the instruments when the spacecraft reaches the sun. Since the probe must first travel through the freezing temperatures of space before it reaches the seething solar environment, each coolant would have to work between 50 F (10 C) and 257 F (125 C), and only a few liquids can handle this area of water. The pressurization of the water increases its boiling point.
"Water was the solution for the temperature range we needed and for the mass limitations," Lockwood said.
After starting, temperature fluctuations will affect the water. First, the temperatures of the solar panels and cooling system radiators will drop to minus 220 ° C before they can be heated by the sun. Less than an hour later, the spacecraft will separate from the launcher and begin a complex sequence after separation, in which the probe will rotate several times and water from the heated accumulator will flow into the two radiators and power the batteries. 19659002] When the spacecraft reaches the sun, it needs to make further adjustments without the help of engineers on the ground. It needs light and radio signals – about eight minutes to get from the sun to the earth. This means that the complex adjustments the spacecraft has to go through to protect itself are done autonomously. New software will help the spacecraft change its orientation immediately to maximize protection from the sun.
"During solar encounters, very small changes in the wing angle of the solar system can significantly alter the required cooling capacity." Lockwood said that changing the angle of attack of a wing by one degree would require 35 percent more cooling capacity.
"That's all new," she said.
A Living Legacy
In the 1950s Parker, an astrophysicist and professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, proposed a series of concepts of how stars – including our sun – release energy. He described a whole complex system of plasmas, magnetic fields and magnetic particles that form the so-called solar wind, the cascade of energy that comes from the sun.
Originally the mission was calculated as Sun Probe Plus. But in 2017, just days before the scientist's 90th birthday, NASA has renamed the mission to honor Parker for his contributions.
"This is the first time NASA has named a living-space spaceship," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement. "It is a testimony to the importance of his work, the founding of a new area of science that has also inspired my own research and many important scientific questions." NASA studies and understands every day, I am delighted to personally participate in it its unprecedented legacy. "
Most NASA missions are renamed following their introduction and certification. In this case, however, the decision was made to pay tribute to Parker before the launch, to draw attention to his important contributions to heliophysics and space exploration.
Originally proposed in 1958, the mission took a long time, "Not because we were not upset," Fox told reporters, "but because we had to wait 60 years for technology to fulfill our dreams."
"The solar probe goes into a region of space that has never been explored before," Parker said. "It's very exciting that we can finally take a look at it, we'd like some more detailed measurements of the solar wind, I'm sure there will be some surprises, there's always that."