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NASA's mission to touch the sun is starting soon




NASA's Mission Solar Probe Plus will explore the solar atmosphere in the summer of 2018.

CREDIT: Applied Physics at Johns Hopkins University / NASA

Using an almost 5-inch mantle of carbon composite solar panels, NASA's Parker Solar Probe will explore the Sun's atmosphere in a mission that is expected to launch in early August. This is NASA's first mission to the Sun and its outermost atmosphere, called Corona.

"The spacecraft is buttoned, looks beautiful and ready for flight", Nicola Fox, Parker Solar Probe Project Scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory,

The launch window will be on August 6 between 4 and 6 pm EST opened and ends on 19 August. If everything goes according to plan, on the morning of August 6th, the probe will launch from Cape Canaveral on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, one of the most powerful rockets in the world. Although the probe is about the size of a car, a powerful rocket is needed to escape Earth's orbit, change direction, and reach the Sun.

The two-week window was chosen specifically because the probe relies on Venus. Achieve an orbit around the Sun. Six weeks after launch, the probe hits Venus for the first time. It will be used to slow down the probe, such as. B. to pull on a handbrake to align the probe so on a path to the sun.

"The starting energy to reach the Sun is 55 times that on Mars and twice the time it took to reach Pluto," said Yanping Guo of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory had designed the mission trajectory. "During the summer, the Earth and the other planets in our solar system are in the best orientation to get closer to the Sun."

It's not a human's journey, so NASA sends about ten. The probe is designed to withstand the heat and radiation never before experienced by a spacecraft, but the purpose-built mission will accomplish this task also address questions that could not be answered in advance. The understanding of the sun in detail could also illuminate the earth and its place in the solar system, researchers said.

"We've been studying the sun for decades, and now we finally go where the action is," said Alex Young, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

In 2017, the ship – initially called Solar Probe Plus – was renamed the Parker Solar Probe in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker.

The first time that NASA has named a spacecraft for a living person, "said Thomas Zurbuchen, Deputy Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate of the Washington Authority." It is a testimony to the importance of his work and establishes a new area for human rights Science that also inspired my own research and many important scientific questions that NASA continues to explore and pursue each day. I am delighted to personally honor a great man and his unparalleled legacy. "

Parker published research results in 1958 predicting the existence of solar wind when he was a junior professor at the Enrico Fermi Institute of the University of Chicago, at which time astronomers believed that the space between the planets was a vacuum. Parker's first work was rejected, but it was saved by a colleague, astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Less than two years after Parker's publication, his theory of solar wind was confirmed by satellite observations our understanding of the Sun and interplanetary space.

Parker is Emeritus Professor of Chandrasekhar at the University of Chicago, and Parker Solar and Nicola Fox, the Parker Solar Probe mission project scientists, also presented Parker with the first full-scale model of the probe and the NASA award for d public service.

"I am very honored to be associated with such a heroic scientific space mission," said Parker.

The Parker Solar Probe will carry a chip with photos of Parker and his revolutionary paper and a plate bearing the inscription Parker wishes – his message to the sun.

The probe will eventually orbit within 3.7 million miles of the Sun's surface. That may sound a long way off, but researchers are equating it with the 4-yard probe on a soccer field and the sun as the end zone.

The observations and data could provide insights into the physics of stars and transform our knowledge of the mysterious corona, more understanding of solar wind, and help to improve the prediction of space weather events. These events can affect satellites and astronauts as well as the Earth – including the power grid and radiation exposure of airlines, NASA said.

The mission's goals include tracking the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind. It determines the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind, and explores mechanisms that accelerate and transport high-energy particles. "

" We were in the orbit of Mercury and did amazing things, but until now you're walking and touching the sun, you can not answer these questions, "Fox said." Why did it take us 60 years? The materials did not exist to make it possible for us. We had to make a heat shield, and we love it. Something that can withstand the extremely hot and cold temperature shifts of its 24 orbits is revolutionary. "

The Solar Wind is the stream of charged gases from the Sun that is present in most of the Solar System, a wind that screams past the Earth at a million miles per hour, and disturbances of the solar wind cause disturbing space weather that affects our planet

Space weather may not sound like something Earthly, but National Academy of Sciences surveys estimated that a US non-cautionary solar event would cause $ 2 trillion in damage and parts of the country would be out of power for one year

To reach orbit around the Sun, the Parker solar probe will make seven fly-bys from Venus, which will essentially provide the probe with gravitational support and shrink its orbit around the Sun over nearly seven years.

The probe will eventually be closer to the sun than Mercury, it will be close enough to see See how the solar wind rises from subsonic to supersonic.

When the sun is closest to the sun, the 4½-inch carbon composite solar panels must withstand temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Due to its construction, the interior of the spacecraft and its instruments will remain at a comfortable room temperature.

Four sets of instruments will collect the data needed to answer key questions about the sun. FIELDS will measure electric and magnetic waves around the probe, WISPR will take pictures, SWEAP will count charged particles and measure their properties and ISOIS will measure the particles over a wide spectrum

The probe will reach a speed of 450,000 mph sun. On Earth, that speed would take someone from Philadelphia to Washington in a second, the agency said. The mission will also pass the source of the highest energy solar particles.

The mission is expected to end in June 2025.

"The sun probe will go into a space-exploration area that has never been explored," Parker said. "It's very exciting that we can finally take a look at it. One would like to have some more detailed measurements of what's going on in the solar wind. I am sure that there will be some surprises. That always exists. "


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