Published: Thu, August 16, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

Parker sets off on its journey to the Sun

Parker sets off on its journey to the Sun

NASA on Sunday successfully launched the Parker Solar Probe, the USA space agency's historic small car-size probe to "touch the Sun", from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The spacecraft, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, will transmit its first scientific observations in December this year, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible. It will then loop around the star 24 times, coming as close as 6.16 million km (3.83 million miles) to the surface. "Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science".

A NASA spacecraft is on its way to the sun after launching from Cape Canaveral on a Delta IV Heavy Rocket.

The first week of the mission will require the spacecraft to perform some tasks.

According to the United States space agency, Parker Solar Probe has been created to withstand the extreme conditions and temperature fluctuations for the mission. "I look forward to all that we will learn from the probe as it transmits information back to Earth on its journey to the sun's orbit". It's created to take solar punishment like never before, thanks to its revolutionary heat shield that's capable of withstanding 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius). As per NASA, the shuttle is shielded from sun-powered radiation by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield, which in spite of weighing only 160 pounds ought to permit locally available instruments to work at room temperature notwithstanding amid the most exceptional parts of its voyage.

"We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star", according to project scientist Nicky Fox of APL.

For more than 60 years, scientist have wondered how energy and heat move through the solar corona and what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.

"All I can say is, 'Wow, here we go.' We're in for some learning over the next several years", said Eugene Parker, the 91-year-old astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named.

"As we got closer to the countdown and progressively closer to lift-off, things get a little more stressful, a little more exciting", said Pinkine.

Can the Parker Probe find out?

"The spacecraft is power positive and that's where we want to be", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's science mission directorate.

Q: What data will the probe be collecting, and what insights are scientists ultimately hoping to gain from these data?

Onboard the Parker Solar Probe is a suite of instruments created to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, as well as capture images of the solar wind. The sun's corona itself has remained a mystery for scientists as temperatures run far hotter here than at the suns surface which shouldn't make sense.

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