Saturday, 24 June, 2017

NASA spacecraft will aim straight for sun next year

Solar Storm NASA spacecraft will aim straight for sun next year
Derrick Tucker | 03 June, 2017, 07:27

In what has been billed as a "mission of extremes", Nasa has announced plans to send a spacecraft into the Sun's outer atmosphere.

"I$3 n addition to answering fundamental science questions, the intent is to better understand the risks space weather poses to the modern communication, aviation and energy systems we all rely on", Dr. Justin C. Kasper, a space science professor at the University of MI, said in a statement.

The spacecraft, designed and built by the Johns Hopkins University laboratory, is scheduled to launch in July 2018 and fly around Venus seven times to get itself into orbit around the sun in December 2024. The spacecraft will fly through the Sun's atmosphere as close as 3.9 million miles (around 6.2 million kilometers) to our star's surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has ever come before.

The US space agency believes the mission will solve longstanding scientific condundrums about the physics of how stars work, including why the Sun's corona - its outermost layer - is so much hotter than its surface.

Data obtained in the pursuit of answering those questions will help back on Earth, too, by improving our ability to forecast space weather (triggered by the sun's activity), which impacts satellite functionality and affects astronauts.

Temperatures in that region exceed 2,500 Fahrenheit (1,377 Celsius), for which the spacecraft is equipped with a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield. "We are going to be moving at blistering temperatures and going up into the corona". Parker discovered solar wind in the 1950s and is about to celebrate his 90th birthday.

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The spacecraft will be subjected to extreme heat and radiation from the corona, where temperatures are almost 1,377C (2,500F).

Initially called Solar Probe Plus, the mission was renamed after the astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 89, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. It will also try to find as to why the Sun's atmosphere has more intense heat than its surface.

NASA's Solar Probe Plus mission will set off to explore the sun's atmosphere in summer 2018.

In a press conference this morning, NASA announced that the craft once known as Solar Probe Plus will now be dubbed the Parker Solar Probe. But just a few hundred miles above the photosphere, in the star's corona, the temperature suddenly jumps to several million degrees. I'm sure that there will be some surprises. His research has greatly increased the understanding of solar winds, the Sun's corona, the Earth's and Sun's magnetic fields, and more solar phenomena.

"We want to go down there, take the challenge of going into the worst environment in the solar system and ... really prove what the processes are that, in fact, make and accelerate the solar wind", Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said during the briefing.

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