NASA plans to 'Touch The Sun' this weekend
- Author: Douglas Reid Aug 12, 2018,
Aug 12, 2018, 16:10
Humanity's first visit to a star begins this weekend.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) has announced its Delta IV heavy rocket is in final reparations to launch NASA´s Parker Solar Probe from Space Launch Complex-37 on August 11, the company said. So we'll launch from from Kennedy on Saturday (August 11) morning on our attractive Delta 4 Heavy.
A rocket launched from Earth straight toward the sun won't lose that sideways momentum, so it would go right past the star, according to NASA. If the launch were to occur after that time, he and his colleagues are concerned that the spacecraft could potentially be damaged while flying through the Van Allen radiation belts that surround Earth. However, the launch period will remain open until August 23, as recently reported by the Inquisitr.
"Until you actually go there and touch the sun, you really can't answer these questions", she said.
The launch window was chosen because the probe will rely on Venus to help it achieve an orbit around the sun.
"There are missions that are studying the solar wind, but we're going to get to the birthplace", Fox said.
In an orbit this close to the Sun, the real challenge is to keep the spacecraft from burning up. Here there are few molecules to collide with Parker's Sun shield and transfer heat to the device. "We have to understand and characterize this place that we're travelling through".
But getting so close to the Sun requires slowing down - for which Parker will use the gravity of our neighbor planet, Venus. Although that sounds far, researchers equate this to the probe sitting on the 4-yard line of a football field and the sun being the end zone.
How can the Sun's atmosphere, called the corona, reach temperatures exceeding a million degrees Celsius if the star's surface is "only" 6,000 C (10,800 degrees Fahrenheit)? "It allows the spacecraft to operate at about room temperature". While granting us life, the sun also has the power to disrupt spacecraft in orbit, and communications and electronics on Earth. "Something that can withstand the extreme hot and cold temperature shifts of its 24 orbits is revolutionary".
When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - some 430,000 miles (700,000 kilometers) per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.
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Why send a probe to the sun? . Another mystery scientists hope to solve: What drives the solar wind?
"All of our data on the corona so far have been remote", said Nicholeen Viall, solar physicist at Goddard. For perspective, Earth is about 93 million miles from the center of our solar system. "We know the questions we want to answer". When they reach the Earth, most particles are deflected by the earth's magnetic field.
But what part of this mission will "touch" the sun? The cup will glow red when the probe makes its closest approach to the sun, sampling the solar wind and effectively touching the sun.
An artist's rendition of the PSP venturing close to the Sun's surface. The technology for surviving such a close solar encounter, while still being light enough for flight, wasn't available until now. It will also pass through the origin of the solar particles with the highest energy. "Our ability to forecast space weather is about as good as our weather forecasts were in the 1970s".
It's important to understand the corona because it's the breeding ground of vast and potentially destructive blasts known as solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
Given Florida summer weather patterns, the team is concerned about the potential of thunderstorms, although that risk is lower in the early-morning hours.
The records will start falling as soon as Parker takes its first run past the sun.
Nicola Fox, the Parker project scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, described the solar probe as "the coolest hottest mission under the sun".
The Wide-Field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR) is the only imaging device on board. A distance of 3.8 million miles from the Sun is impressively close. Solar wind can reach speeds of 1.8 million miles per hour - but how the particles are accelerated to such speeds remains a mystery. At the time, astronomers believed that the space between planets was a vacuum. Sixty years ago, the young astrophysicist proposed the existence of solar wind.
Parker is now the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. Then a long adventure lies ahead for the Parker probe. "It's very exciting that we'll finally get a look".