Nasa Launches Historic Probe To 'touch Sun'

Parker Solar Probe launch

Parker Solar Probe launch

Solar scientist Eugene Parker watches as NASA's Parker Solar Probe, named for him, launches into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on August 12, 2018.

Nestled atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy, one of the world's most powerful rockets, with a third stage added, Parker Solar Probe blasted off toward the sun with a whopping 55 times more energy than was required to reach Mars.

PSP is carrying four instrument suites created to study the sun's magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind.

The Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft the size of a small vehicle, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, on a seven-year mission.

"The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world", Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement of the mission."And even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are attractive ― but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere".

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

NASA says the probe will travel directly into the sun's atmosphere over the course of its mission and will get to within about four million miles of the star's surface. But if the mission goes as planned, the probe's discoveries will serve as a lasting legacy to Eugene Parker, the only living person to have a NASA spacecraft named after him.

To handle the heat it has been covered with a special 4.5 inch thick carbon-composite shield capable of withstanding temperatures up to 1,650C.

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Once there, the spacecraft will become the fastest one ever, orbiting the Sun at a whopping 430-thousand miles an hour.

"The unique requirements of this mission made the Delta IV Heavy the ideal launch vehicle to deliver Parker Solar Probe into orbit with the highest precision", said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs.

The goal is to help scientists figure out what makes the corona hotter than the sun's visible surface and what accelerates charged particles to enormous velocities, producing the solar wind that streams away from the corona in all directions. "We are in for some learning over the next several years", Parker told NASA television.

"It's a whole new phase, and it's going to be fascinating throughout". To snuggle up to the sun, it will fly past Venus seven times over seven years. "We've looked at it, we've studied it from missions that are close in - even as close as the planet Mercury - but we have to go there".

The Parker Solar Probe carries a lineup of instruments to study the Sun both remotely and in situ, or directly.

The Parker probe, which cost a whopping $1.5bn (£1.17bn) left Cape Canaveral last night atop a big rocket, bound for the centre of our galaxy.

"So we're already in a region of very, very interesting coronal area", Fox said. "The materials didn't exist to allow us to do it".

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