UA Scientists Expect Bright Discoveries From Solar Satellite

UA Scientists Expect Bright Discoveries From Solar Satellite

UA Scientists Expect Bright Discoveries From Solar Satellite

The only way to get to the Sun is to cancel that sideways motion.

The probe will have to do seven orbits over seven years around the sun, with gravity assistance from Venus, to reduce that sideways speed. NASA's Parker Solar Probe will launch as soon as Saturday.

An artist's rendering of the Parker Solar Probe nearing the Sun.

"[Parker] will not only make history by answering questions that have puzzled scientists for decades, but it may also lead to the discovery of new phenomena that are completely unknown to us now", says Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe Deputy Project Scientist.

The U.S. space agency has scheduled PSP to be launched tomorrow, August 11th, at 3:33 A.M. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It weighs a mere 635 kg.

The probe is created to fly through the outermost part of the sun's atmosphere.

Of course, the PSP is more than a collection of instruments.* It's headed straight for regions reaching up to 2500° F and, at its fastest, it will reach 430,000 miles per hour-giving it the record for fastest spacecraft ever!

With a carbon heat shield, the probe will travel to within six-point-one million kilometers of the sun's surface.

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

It's the first mission ever that will get up close and personal with the sun.

"The launch energy to reach the Sun is 55 times that required to get to Mars, and two times that needed to get to Pluto", Yanping Guo of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, who designed the mission trajectory, said in a statement.

Over the next seven years, as it circles the sun, the probe will wrap around Venus seven times, each time slowing down and swooping closer to the sun.

After launch, the spacecraft will head toward Venus, whose gravity will bend its path into the correct orbit. On its final three orbits, the probe will enter the sun's atmosphere, also known as its corona. The 8-foot (2.4-meter) shield will face the sun during the close solar encounters, shading the science instruments in the back and keeping them humming at a cool 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius).

Parker's 2.4 metre heat shield is just 11 centimetres thick.

Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 F (29 C).

The countdown to launch a historic space mission to the sun is on.

Besides exploring the curious temperature differences between the Sun's surface and corona, scientists are particularly keen to understand what accelerates solar wind (made up of charged particles emitted from the Sun, like protons and electrons).

Enter the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation (SWEAP), which will count the most abundant particles in the solar wind - electrons, protons and helium ions - and measure their velocity, density and temperature.

"All of our data on the corona so far have been remote", said Nicholeen Viall, solar physicist at Goddard. The first data download from the Parker Solar Probe is expected in early December, after the probe reaches its first close approach of the sun in November. Among other things, the spacecraft will carry a microchip with more than a million names on it.

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