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NASA's Parker Solar Probe To Get Closer To Sun Than Any Other Man-Made Object

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NASA's Parker Solar Probe will go on a historic journey in the summer of 2018, skimming through the fiery atmosphere of the sun.

The probe will see the spacecraft get seven times more close to the sun’s surface than any other man-made object in human history.

The Parker Solar Probe, which will travel at 725,000 kilometers per hour, is going to reach within 4 million miles of the solar surface. It may seem like a long distance away from the sun but even at that length, the spacecraft will face a temperature of 1,700-degree Celsius.

Simultaneously, it has the monumental task of keeping the lab equipment intact within its room-temperature interiors. Incidentally, the excessive temperature is high enough for iron to melt.

The spacecraft will be launched from Florida. It will pass Venus, which will give it a gravitational boost to swing into a series of orbits around the sun. The probe will travel through the sun’s atmosphere known as the corona, with each close approach.

Mission Systems

The spacecraft will have a Solar Probe Cup, which will collect samples from the barrage of high energy particles that escape from the sun by poking out from behind the heat shield. Test lead Annette Dolbow called it the bravest little instrument on the probe.

The spacecraft will also have a cooling system, which will function like a radiator and have 5 liters of pressurized water. The system will be not like any other ever used on a spacecraft before, especially because there is a combination of water and electronics.

Probe To Investigate Two Mysteries

The mission will help scientists know why the atmosphere of the sun is hotter than its surface and how do high-energy particles get expelled into space from the corona.

The answers to these mysteries are relevant to life on Earth. Disruptions in the atmosphere of the sun can produce coronal mass ejections that are huge explosions of ionized gas as well as solar flares that are bursts of radiation.

When CMEs interact with the magnetosphere of Earth, they induce electric currents that could reach the ground and damage power grids. Solar flares, meanwhile, disrupt radio communications and result in radiation poisoning to any astronauts in space who are not protected by the magnetic field of the planet. The prediction of such events requires researchers to know more about the sun.

“These are questions we were trying to answer from 93 million miles away,” said Eric Christian, a Goddard physicist, an investigator attached to the probe. “But the fact is, you've got to go where the action is in order to really understand what's happening.”

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