NASA spacecraft will aim straight for sun next year

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In an historic moment at the University of Chicago on Wednesday, NASA announced that the US will launch humanity's first mission to a star.

"It's this revolution of technology from completely different fields of science that has led to this [mission] and will enable this probe to get close to the Sun, which will then help us explore space and Mars and other places", he said. The Space Weather Prediction Center, based in Boulder, Colo., monitors solar activity from instruments both terrestrial and in orbit, including the Deep Space Climate Observatory, which circles the Sun a million miles from Earth and can give Earthlings an hour heads-up on how serious a solar eruption might be. That's well inside the orbit of Mercury, and seven times closer than any other probe has ever gotten to the sun, NASA officials said.

So the mission is twofold; why does the sun have a solar wind at all (hopefully this tells us why it travels so quickly and is so much hotter than the sun itself), and how does the outer atmosphere of the star, called the corona, inexplicably heat up to millions of degrees? An eleven-centimetre-thick carbon-composite shield will protect the probe from temperatures approaching 1,400°C. It will make critical observations that NASA hopes will answer decades-old questions about how stars work.

If all goes well after its launch, PSP should make its first pass of the sun in November 2018 and its final one in June 2025. "We are going to be moving at blistering temperatures and going up into the corona". NASA says the Parker Solar Probe will gather information on the corona and on the evolution and origin of solar wind. Parker called it "a heroic scientific space mission", referring to the temperatures and solar radiation to be endured by the spacecraft, and the extreme safeguards taken.

The spacecraft used during the mission has been named the Parker Solar Probe, in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker, NASA also announced.

Solar Storm
NASA spacecraft will aim straight for sun next year

The Parker Solar Probe is planned to complete 7 flybys of Venus over 7 years, edging closer to the solar surface each time.

"I'm greatly honored to be named after such an important mission", Parker said as he was presented with a model of the Parker Probe Plus spacecraft. The Sun's photosphere is just over 5,500°C, yet this increases to several million degrees as it turns into the corona.

Perched atop a heavy-lift United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket, the 1,500-pound solar probe is scheduled for launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station between July 31 and August 19, 2018. "But even more we look forward to new questions that will arise from those answers that will point us to even more exciting discoveries".

Solar winds are made of charged gases emanating from the sun.

Eugene Parker himself also expressed excitement about the mission, declaring, "I'm sure there will be some surprises".

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