NASA spacecraft hurtles toward the sun

NASA: Parker Solar Probe launches on mission to 'touch the sun' | Daily Star

But that was her reaction in the wee hours today (Aug. 12) as she watched NASA's Parker Solar Probe launch on an unprecedented mission to the sun.

"The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth", said Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of MI. It is expected to launch in 2020, arriving at its closest position to the Sun towards the end of Parker's planned seven years of operations.

Nothing from Planet Earth has ever hit that kind of speed.

That's where it will encounter temperatures of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Solar Probe Cup, dubbed "the bravest little instrument", is a sensor that will extend beyond the heat shield to "scoop up samples" of the Sun's atmosphere, according to Professor Justin Kasper of the University of MI.

It took one of the most powerful rockets in the world to get the mission moving - not because the probe is large or heavy, but because of the speed required to cruise through the solar system. It also marks ULA's sixth launch in 2018 and the 129 successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006. After the gravity boosts, PSP will eventually hit 430,000 miles per hour in the corona at its closest approach - the equivalent of going from Chicago to Beijing in under a minute.

The project, with a $1.5 billion price tag, is the first major mission under Nasa's Living With a Star program. "We have to understand and characterize this place that we're traveling through".

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It is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after someone still alive. Sixty years ago, it was Parker who first proposed that the sun sent out a stream of solar wind. He was at Cape Canaveral for the launch - his first - which he called "impressive".

He added: "It's a whole new phase and it's gonna be fascinating throughout.and we're just waiting for the data now so the experts can get busy because there's a lot of data will be coming in".

"All I have to say is wow, here we go".

"This could be from hydrogen particles beyond the solar system interacting with the furthest reaches of the solar wind, creating what appears to be a boundary in the distance, according to the paper published this week in Geophysical Research Letters". Parker Solar Probe would be just 4cm away from the Sun. That's about enough to run a kitchen blender.

The probe will make 24 close approaches to the sun over seven years. That's fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second. It'll fly just over 6 million km from the surface - protected from the searing temperatures by a revolutionary new heat shield.

Scientists hope to shed light on the workings of our closest star - including the dynamics of the solar wind of electrically charged particles, and the reason why the sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, is hundreds of times hotter than the sun's surface.

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