Spacewatch: Firing up for a close encounter with the sun

Spacewatch: Firing up for a close encounter with the sun

Spacewatch: Firing up for a close encounter with the sun

NASA's Parker Solar Probe is now ready to embark on its journey to the sun.

Since then, NRL telescopes have captured extraordinary images of the Sun's atmosphere, including two of the most recent missions: The European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) mission [11] in 1995 and the NASA STEREO mission launched in 2006. Watch live in the player above. While the previous NRL telescopes are on spacecraft either on lower Earth orbit or just outside of Earth's orbit, they are still getting fuzzy views of the Sun.

The results can improve forecasts of the major eruptions on the Sun and subsequent space weather events, which damage life on Earth, to satellites and astronauts in space.

Over the course of its seven-year mission, the probe will orbit the sun 24 times, each time sweeping through the corona, where the temperature is a blistering 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 1,400 degrees Celsius).

The shield should enable the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the fiery star, coming within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the Sun's surface. In space terms, that's practically shaking hands.

United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy rocket is providing the muscle.

That heat shield is what takes a seven-year mission to the sun out of science fiction and makes it a reality.

The Parker Solar Probe is the first spacecraft named after a living person, Eugene Parker, a University of Chicago astronomy and astrophysics professor emeritus whose 1958 research changed what we know about the sun.

The spacecraft is expected to make its closest approach to the sun in the year 2024, as it flies 3.9 million miles above the solar surface.

The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation here on Earth.

Researchers hope to learn about solar winds and space weather.

According to Nicola fox from johns Hopkins university who is responsible for the project initiation said that this will be the hottest and hardest missions ever done to a star within the solar system.

All of our data on the corona so far have been remote.

The mission Sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, the closest any man-made instrument has ever got to a star.

"For scientists like myself, the reward of the long, hard work will be the unique set of measurements returned by Parker", said Szabo. Among other things, the spacecraft will carry a microchip with more than a million names on it.

Eventually, when the spacecraft runs out of fuel, it will disintegrate as it gets pulled lower and lower in its orbit around the sun. "It gives me the sense of excitement of an explorer".

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