On Saturday, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be scheduled to launch via Cape Canaveral, Fla. The space agency will be touting This kind of as a mission “to touch the sun.” Here will be some background information about the Parker mission.
Why would likely anyone want to touch the sun?
The spacecraft will eventually pass within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface. that will may still sound like quite a ways, yet This kind of’s close enough to skim through the sun’s outer atmosphere. Four million miles will be about one-tenth the distance between the sun as well as also also Mercury, the innermost planet of the solar system.
The Parker Solar Probe will be designed to expand our understanding of the sun, measuring electrical as well as also also magnetic fields, cataloging the ingredients of the solar wind as well as also also photographing the corona — the outer atmosphere that will will be millions of degrees hotter than the sun’s surface. Instruments on the spacecraft will be able to detect details that will cannot be seen via farther away.
At its closest approach, the outside of the spacecraft will reach 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, or about the melting temperature of steel. yet a 8-foot-wide carbon composite shield will absorb the intense heat as well as also also keep the spacecraft as well as also also its instruments cool. The foam inside shield will be so fluffy — 97 percent empty space — that will This kind of adds only 0 pounds of weight.
What will be solar wind?
A stream of charged particles — primarily protons as well as also also electrons — continuously flows outward via the sun through the solar system at a speed of about a million miles per hour. Earth’s magnetic field generates a bubble that will deflects the solar wind around our planet as well as also also generates the beautiful aurora borealis, also known as the Northern as well as also also Southern lights, that will flicker at night inside polar regions.
Solar wind originates inside corona, yet how This kind of will be generated will be not fully understood. The surface of the sun will be about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Parker Solar Probe will be supposed to fill in many of the blanks.
Why do we care about solar wind?
This kind of could devastate civilization.
Occasionally, a huge explosion, called a coronal mass ejection, erupts via the sun, sending a larger-than-usual deluge of particles into space. In 1859, one of those explosions made a direct hit on Earth, disrupting telegraph wires in America as well as also also Europe. If the same thing happened today, This kind of could cause continentwide blackouts, damaging transformers on the electrical grid, potentially requiring months to years to repair.
In 2012, one of NASA’s sun-watching spacecraft, Stereo-A, detected an explosion comparable to the 1859 explosion. Fortunately, This kind of was not aimed in Earth’s direction.
When does the Parker Solar Probe launch?
Launch will be scheduled for 4:28 a.m. Eastern time. A technical issue delayed an earlier launch time, yet NASA as well as also also ULA, the company that will built the Delta IV rocket, resolved the problem. No weather-related delays are currently expected in Florida.
The launch can be attempted until 4:38 a.m. Eastern time. If This kind of will be called off on Saturday, there are additional opportunities through Aug. 23 before the planets are too far out of alignment.
How do I watch the launch?
If you’re not down in Cape Canaveral, as well as also also you like to wake up very early or stay up very late, NASA TV will be broadcasting coverage of the launch on the web.
How big will be the spacecraft?
The Parker Solar Probe will be fairly tiny for a spacecraft, about the size of a car as well as also also weighing 1,500 pounds at launch.
Why does This kind of need a big rocket?
The spacecraft needs to be accelerated to a high enough speed to break away via Earth’s gravity as well as also also enter orbit around the sun. Thus, This kind of will be launching on top of a Delta 4 rocket, one of the most powerful currently available.
How will the probe get to the sun?
On its first plunge to the sun, the probe will pass within about 15 million miles of the sun. that will’s close enough for the instruments to collect some useful data, yet the greater excitement will come later.
The probe will also zip close to Venus, using that will planet’s gravity as a brake to sap energy via its motion as well as also also allow This kind of to spiral inward, closer to the sun. After seven such course improvements, the probe will be in an 88-day elliptical orbit of the sun, that has a closest approach of about 3.8 million miles.
In total, the spacecraft will complete 24 orbits, as well as also also the mission will be to end in 2025.
How fast will This kind of go?
On the later orbits, the strong pull of the sun’s gravity will accelerate the probe to 430,000 miles per hour, which will be the fastest human-made object ever.
Who will be Parker?
Until last year, the spacecraft was known as Solar Probe Plus. NASA renamed This kind of for Eugene N. Parker, a retired University of Chicago astrophysicist who was the first to predict the solar wind. This kind of will be the 1st time NASA has named a mission for a living person.