Published: Sun, June 04, 2017
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

NASA's first mission to Sun renamed Parker Solar Probe

NASA's first mission to Sun renamed Parker Solar Probe

According to CNBC, "the probe will move more than 430,000 miles per hour (the equivalent of traveling from NY to Tokyo in less than a minute) and be seven times closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft".

Travelling at a speed of 430,000 miles per hour, the probe will make seven flybys of the sun over a seven-year period, in what NASA describes as a "mission of extremes".

"The solar probe is going to a region of space that has never been explored before", said Parker. The spacecraft will also fly close enough to the sun to watch the solar wind speed up from subsonic to supersonic.

"This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual", said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

One of the largest recorded solar storms occurred in September 1859 when in the space of two days, telegraph systems throughout North America and Europe failed, giving some operators electric shocks, according to the National Research Council's Committee on the Societal and Economic Impacts of Severe Space Weather Events.

At £1.1bn, the seven-year project is eye-wateringly expensive, though if the mission is successful, those costs will be far outweighed by crucial insights into the star that gives us light and heat.

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In 1958, Parker, then a young professor at the university's Enrico Fermi Institute, published an article in the Astrophysical Journal.

The spacecraft, the Parker Solar Probe named in honour of astrophysicist Eugene Parker, is scheduled to launch during a 20-day window that opens July 31, 2018. Parker's work forms the basis for much of our understanding about how stars interact with the worlds that orbit them.

"It's a spacecraft loaded with technological breakthroughs that will solve numerous largest mysteries about our star, including finding out why the Sun's corona is so much hotter than its surface".

Parker, who is days away from his 90th birthday, described the mission as "very exciting". I'm sure that there will be some surprises. "There always are", Parker said. He theorized that the sun constantly sends out a flow of particles and energy called the solar wind.

"We will brush closely by it", she said at an event in Chicago to unveil the mission, which NASA has touted as promising to provide humanity's closest-ever observations of a star.

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