ULA sends Parker Solar Probe toward the Sun


At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.

The spacecraft was visible over the Sunshine Coast on Sunday night, after Saturday morning's launch attempt was foiled by technical issues.

The Solar Probe Cup, dubbed "the bravest little instrument", is a sensor that will extend beyond the heat shield to "scoop up samples" of the Sun's atmosphere, according to Professor Justin Kasper of the University of MI.

The spacecraft is the only Nasa probe in history to be named after a living person - in this case, solar physicist Eugene Parker, 91, who first described the solar wind in 1958.

"Until you actually go there and touch the Sun, you really can't answer these questions", project scientist Nicola Fox told CBS News. Thus two probes which trace their lineage to MIT Professor Herb Bridge will be making measurements at opposite ends of the solar system, from as close as you can get to the sun to as far away as the local interstellar medium.

Instruments on board may also help to explain why the corona is hotter than the sun's surface by several orders of magnitude.

Here, it will cross paths with Venus, and be flying within the orbit of Mercury, seven times closer to the sun than any other probe.

It's also unknown what causes the solar wind to accelerate from a steady breeze to a supersonic flow, or what sparks violent solar storms that eject blobs of material at millions of miles per hour. These findings, in turn, could serve a practical objective by helping space agencies anticipate and protect against solar flares that can disrupt satellites and electrical grids on Earth.

NASA successfully launched a spacecraft toward the sun on Sunday, hoping to increase scientific understanding of how our star works.

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"Chandra, as he was popularly known, is another astrophysicist with his name tagged to a space mission, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory", Nandi said. 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).

Earth's average distance to the sun is 93 million miles.

The spacecraft will analyse so-called "space weather", which is large eruptions of radiation from the sun which batter Earth.

The Delta-IV Heavy rocket - which was carrying the probe - launched at 03:31 local time (07:31 GMT).

"Eventually, the spacecraft will run out of propellant", said Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe project manager at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will have to survive hard heat and radiation conditions.

However the technology to make the spacecraft small and light enough to travel at incredible speeds - while surviving the sun's punishing environment and the extreme changes in temperature - are only now possible. Scientists aim to learn more about the mechanisms that power the solar wind of charged particles the sun sends into the solar system, creating aurorae on Earth and sometimes screwing with our tech.

Eugene Parker was an astronomer at the University of Chicago in the 1950s. "The outer sun-facing side of the shield will reach 2,500 Fahrenheit at closest approach to the sun".