Published: Sun, August 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

After technical delay, Nasa to try again launching Sun probe

After technical delay, Nasa to try again launching Sun probe

The heavily shielded Parker Solar Probe will make 24 such close flybys over the next seven years, getting within just 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the sun's surface at closest approach.

Thousands of spectators gathered in the middle of the night on Friday to witness the launch, including the University of Chicago astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named. "Each time we fly by we get closer and closer to the Sun", Driesman added.

The tools on board will measure the expanding corona and continually flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which solar physicist Eugene Parker first described in 1958.

The Parker Solar Probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will, as the USA space agency describes it, "touch the sun" as it flies within 3.9 million miles of the star's surface.

Image: The probe has been fitted with material to help it withstand extreme heats.

The probe will travel at 430,000 miles an hour, faster than any spacecraft in history, and use Venus's gravity over the course of seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the sun.

NASA is sending a spacecraft straight into the sun's glittering crown, an atmospheric region so hot and harsh any normal visitor would wither.

The powerful Delta 4 Heavy and a solid-propellant upper stage will provide the energy needed to counteract Earth's 18-mile-per-second orbital velocity, allowing the Parker Solar Probe to fall into the inner solar system.

The probe is set to use seven Venus flybys 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 help scientists understand more about the nature of the sun by taking measurements of solar winds, a flow of ionised gases. The spacecraft is created to fly through the sun's super-hot outer atmosphere, called the corona, to study the solar wind and sun storms.

This is a phenomenon that has baffled NASA scientists because the sun's atmosphere "gets much, much hotter the farther it stretches from the sun's blazing surface".

"We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star", said project scientist Nicky Fox from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Manned missions, such as the Apollo moon landings, were run from the Christopher C Kraft Mission Control Centre in Houston, from where it earned its famous radio call sign.

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