NASA to launch car-sized spacecraft Parker Solar Probe to study Sun

NASA to launch car-sized spacecraft Parker Solar Probe to study Sun

NASA to launch car-sized spacecraft Parker Solar Probe to study Sun

On Earth, this speed would enable someone to get from Philadelphia to Washington in one second, the agency said. There will be 24 orbits between Venus and the sun, with the final three putting Parker closest to the sun - just 3.8 million miles (6 million kilometers) out - in 2024 and 2025. We use Venus to give us a gravity assist, if I can have that Venus thing.

In order to reach an orbit around the sun, the Parker Solar Probe will take seven flybys of Venus that will essentially give a gravity assist, shrinking its orbit over the course of almost seven years.

The key to understanding its origins lies in understanding the Sun itself and that's where Parker Solar Probe comes in, according to the researchers at NASA.

At 3:33 a.m. EDT on August 11, while most of the asleep, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be abuzz with excitement.

All systems are go as NASA prepares to launch a spacecraft that will travel closer to the Sun than ever before.

University of Arizona professor, Joe Giacolene is a co-investigator on the Parker Solar Probe mission.

At 3:33 a.m. EDT, the Parker Solar Probe will launch from Space Launch Complex 37 on Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. About the size of a small vehicle, it weighs a mere 1,400 pounds.

"The sun is hot", said project manager Andrew Driesman.

When the spacecraft is closest to the sun in its orbit, this is known as perihelion.

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

"The prime scientific goal of the mission is to try and understand what we call the solar wind", Halekas said of the flow that involves ionized hydrogen, helium, and electrons.

For example, he said, when stronger gusts of solar wind penetrate the "bubble" that is Earth's magnetic field, orbiting spacecraft, satellites used for communication, even electrical grids on the ground can be affected.

Getting from the Earth to the sun should seem reasonably straightforward since the star is always in the same place in our solar system relative to Earth's orbit. From Earth, it will head towards Venus, where it will execute the first of seven flybys.

This weekend, in the dark hours before dawn, NASA plans to send a spacecraft to touch the sun.

To survive the heat, the probe is equipped with a 4.5-inch-thick heat shield made of reinforced carbon.

If all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Scientists also hope the probe can help them to answer why the corona, the outermost layer of the sun's atmosphere, is 300 times hotter than its surface.

Once expelled from the solar corona, the particles should cool down and slow down as they move away from the Sun.

Related news