Parker Solar Probe launches Saturday on “Mission to Touch the Sun”

If everything goes according to plan, the probe will start at 3:33 am ET Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, one of the world’s most powerful rockets. The launch window will be open for 65 minutes. If the probe does not start on Saturday, the successful launch window will not close until 23 August.

Although the probe itself is about a car’s size, a powerful rocket is needed to avoid the Earth’s path, change direction and reach the sun.

The launch window was selected because the probe will rely on Venus to help achieve a path around the sun.

Six weeks after launch, the probe will face Venus gravity for the first time. It will be used to slow the probe down, like pulling a handbrake and aiming the probe so that it is on its way to the sun.

“The launch energy to reach the sun is 55 times required to get to Mars, and twice needed to get to Pluto,” said Yanping Guo from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, who designed missionary ground. a statement. “In the summer, the Earth and the other planets of our solar system are in the most favorable adaptation so we can get close to the sun.”

Preparing for a Trip to the Sun

It’s not a journey that any human can do, so NASA sends a completely autonomous probe closer to the sun than spacecraft has ever achieved.

The probe must withstand heat and radiation that has never been experienced by any spacecraft, but the mission will also address issues that could not be answered before. Understanding the sun in greater detail can also throw light on the earth and its place in the solar system, scientists said.

“We have been studying the sun for decades, and now we will finally go where the action is,” said Alex Young, solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement.

To reach a circulation around the sun, Parker Solar Probe will take seven Venus aircraft that will essentially provide a force force, shrinking its orbits for almost seven years.

 NASA goes closer to the sun than anyone else has gone before

The probe will traverse within 3.8 million miles of solar surface 2024 closer to the star than mercury. Although it sounds far, scientists correspond to the probe sitting on the 4-yard line on a soccer field and the sun is the end zone.

Close to the sun are the 4½ inch thick coal-shaped sun shades will have to withstand temperatures near 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the spacecraft content and its instruments will remain at a comfortable room temperature.

“We’ve been in the Mercury neighborhood and did amazing things, but until you go to the sun, you can not answer these questions,” said Nicola Fox, project researcher. “Why have it taken us 60 years? The materials were not available for us to do that. We had to make a heat shield and we love it. Something that can handle the extreme hot and cold temperature changes in its 24 lanes is revolutionary. “

The probe will reach a speed of 4,530,000 miles per hour around the sun setting a record for the fastest artificial object. On the ground this speed would allow anyone to come from Philadelphia to Washington in a second, said the agency.

Why send a probe to the sun?

The observations and information can provide insight into the physics of the stars, change what we know about the mysterious coronary, enhance the understanding of solar wind and help improve These events can affect satellites and astronauts as well as the Earth – including power grids and radiation exposure on airplanes, NASA said.

Solar wind is the flow of charged gases from the sun, present in most of the solar system. It screams over the earth at one million miles per hour, and disturbances can cause disturbing space conditions affecting our planet.

Investigations from

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The mission’s goal is to trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the sun’s corona and solar wind, determines the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at solar wind power and explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles. “

Four instruments of instrument collect the data needed to answer important solar issues. FIELDS measures electrical and magnetic waves around the probe, WISPR captures images, SWEAP counts charged particles and measures their properties and ISOIS measures the particles over one wide spectrum.

But what part of this mission will “touch” the sun? The Solar Probe Cup, called “the bravest instrument”, is a sensor that will extend beyond the heat shield to “scoop samples” of the sun’s atmosphere , according to Justin Kasper, mission researcher and professor of climate, space science and technology at the University of Michigan. The cup lights red when the probe makes its closest approach to the sun, sampling of the solar wind and effectively touching the sun.

“The Alfvén point is the distance from the sun beyond which they charged the particles that form the solar wind are no longer in contact with the sun’s surface, “Kristopher Klein, co-investigator of the probe and h University Administrator in Arizona Lunar and Planetary Lab, said in a statement. “If Parker Solar Probe can reach under the Alfvén point, we can say that the spacecraft has entered the sunshine and touched the sun.”

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The probe will be close enough to see the sun wind whipping up from subsonic to supersonic. It will also pass through the solar energy particles with the highest energy.

“It will give us a better understanding of the environment in which the earth is in,” Klein said. “Our ability to predict space weather is about as good as our weather forecasts were in the 1970s. If you have a better understanding of the behavior of these solar power particles, you can make better predictions about when to send astronauts to Mars or to protect a satellite before it decomposes of a radiation change. “

The mission is scheduled to end in June 2025. The first data retrieval from Parker Solar Probe is expected in early December after the probe reached its first close setting of the sun in November.

“Finally, spacecraft will run out of fuel,” said Andy Driesman, Project Manager for Parker Solar Probe at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. “How I like to think about it: For 10-20 years, a carbon surface will float around the sun in circulation and it will end until the end of the solar system.”

Parker’s heritage

In 2017, the craft – originally called Solar Probe Plus – was named Parker Solar Probe to the glory of astrophysicist Eugene Parker.

“This is the first time NASA has been designated spacecraft for a living individual,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of the Office’s Research Scientific Research Center in Washington. “It is proof of the importance of his work and based on a new science area that also inspired my own research and many important scientific issues. NASA continues to study and understand every day. I am very pleased to be personally involved to honor one great man and his unmatched legacy. “

Parker published research that predicts the existence of solar wind in 1958 when he was a young professor at the University of Chicago’s Enrico Fermi Institute. At that time, the astronomers considered that the space between planets was a vacuum. Parker’s first paper was rejected, but it was rescued by a colleague, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, an astrophysicist to be awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Less than two years after Parker’s paper was published, his theory of solar wind was confirmed through satellite observations. His work revolutionized our understanding of the sun and interplanetary space.

Parker is now S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. Zurbuchen and Fox also featured Parker with NASA’s excellent public service medal.

“I am very honored to be associated with such a heroic scientific space mission,” said Parker.

Parker Solar Probe will carry a chip of pictures of Parker, his revolutionary paper and his message to the sun: “Let’s see what’s ahead.” It will also carry more than 1.1 million names published to eventually “bane the sun forever,” Fox said.

“The solar probe goes to an area in space that has never been explored earlier,” said Parker. “It’s very exciting that we finally see a look. You would like to have a more detailed measurement of what’s happening in the sun. I’m sure there will be some surprises. There’s always.”

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