Published: Sat, August 11, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

NASA to send solar probe closer to sun than ever before

NASA to send solar probe closer to sun than ever before

This will place the probe just 3.8 million miles from the Sun's surface - seven times closer to the star than any craft that came before it, according to NASA. "It gives me the sense of excitement of an explorer". It's the fastest any man-made object will have ever traveled and the probe will likely hold that title for a long time.

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, is set to use seven Venus fly-bys over almost seven years to steadily reduce its orbit around the Sun, using instruments created to image the solar wind and study electric and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles. The probe will use Venus' gravity to slow itself down as it makes its close approaches with the sun.

"We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star", project scientist Nicky Fox said in a statement. "We're a technological society, so we have to understand this to better understand its impact and ultimately to be able to predict it just like we do weather on Earth".

Poking out over the heat shield, an instrument known as the Faraday cup will take measurements of the solar winds, a flow of ionised gases from the sun that streams past Earth at a million miles per hour.

The spacecraft will orbit the sun 24 times - sampling the solar wind and providing close-up observations - while enduring temperatures of 1,377C (2510F).

Data gathered by the probe is also expected to help us learn more about space weather in general.

Saturday marks the day we finally send a spacecraft to the sun.

As NASA explains, the probe's first challenge will be to cancel out the speed at which the earth is moving in relation to the sun.

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