It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
For the first time, a NASA spacecraft will swoop in and touch the sun. The Parker Solar Probe will make 24 orbits of the star before swooping into the outermost part of the solar atmosphere, known as the corona, to study the sun up close and personal. At its closest approach, Parker Solar probe will fly within 3.7 million miles (6 million kilometers) of the sun's surface — more than eight times closer than any other spacecraft and more than eight times closer than Mercury.
Our sun is surrounded by a deep, million-degree atmosphere that affects everything in the solar system — but how, precisely, it does so is a mystery. The atmosphere, called the corona, produces the solar wind — a flood of charged particles that stream out of the sun and across the solar system. As the solar wind travels to Earth, it brings threats of radiation and magnetic interference.
The Parker Probe is the only probe named after a living person!
MORE After decades of scientific brainstorming and years of construction, NASA's Parker Solar Probe is safely on its way to flying seven times closer to the sun than any mission has before. Now that the spacecraft is finally off the ground, it won't be long before scientists can start digging into its data — and that data will keep coming for seven years.
The deep-space journey of NASA's epic sun-touching mission has started out well. The Parker Solar Probe, which launched early Sunday morning (Aug. 12) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, is notching flight milestones according to plan, NASA officials said today (Aug. 17). For example, the spacecraft deployed its high-gain antenna, which it uses to communicate with Earth, a day after liftoff. Also, on Aug. 13, the Parker Solar Probe powered up one of its four instrument suites — the one known as the Fields Experiment. [NASA's Parker Solar Probe Mission to the Sun in Pictures]
"The team — which is monitoring the spacecraft 24 hours a day, seven days a week — is observing nominal data from the systems as we bring them online and prepare Parker Solar Probe for its upcoming initial Venus gravity assist," he added.
That Venus flyby will occur on Oct. 3, paving the way for the Parker Solar Probe's first close encounter with the sun on Nov. 5. The $1.5 billion mission will make a total of 24 close solar flybys over the next seven years. And more Venus gravity assists are coming, too — six more, in fact, after the October encounter. These Venus flybys will help sculpt and shrink the Parker Solar Probe's elliptical orbit, helping it get much closer to our star than any human-made object ever has before.
As of noon EDT (1600 GMT) yesterday (Aug. 16), the Parker Solar Probe was 2.9 million miles (4.7 million km) from Earth and zooming through space at 39,000 mph (63,000 km/h), NASA officials said.
Partner Series Here Comes the Sun! Parker Solar Probe Instruments See 'First Light' These images, taken with Parker Solar Probe's WISPER inner and outer telescopes, show a view of the universe about 13 degrees off of that seen from Earth. Credit: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe As Parker Solar Probe prepares for an unprecedented close-up of the sun, the new spacecraft sent data home showing that all is well in the mission. The probe's instruments showed the band of the Milky Way and picked up evidence of the solar wind, the constant stream of particles emanating from the sun. The spacecraft will swoop close to the sun in November of 2018 and, over the course of seven years and many orbits, will take periodic close-ups of the sun and zoom by Venus several times. Parker will come within 4 million miles (6.4 million kilometers) of the sun on its closest orbit; that's more than eight times closer than the planet Mercury gets to the sun. One big mystery that Parker may help shed light on, so to speak, is why the sun's corona (or upper atmosphere) is so much hotter than the layers below. The corona's temperature ranges from 1.7 million degrees Fahrenheit (1 million degrees Celsius) to more than 17 million degrees F (10 million degrees C), according to the National Solar Observatory. By contrast, the photosphere or "surface" of the sun reaches roughly 10,000 degrees F (5,500 degrees C).
"All instruments returned data that not only serves for calibration but also captures glimpses of what we expect them to measure near the sun to solve the mysteries of the solar atmosphere, the corona," project scientist Nour Raouafi, who is based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Maryland, said in a NASA statement.
NASA's Parker Solar Probe will never return to Earth — but it can still look back on where it came from.
When Parker Solar Probe captured this image, it was about 27 million miles away from Earth. Since then, it has continued its speedy journey toward the sun, thanks to a trajectory adjustment created by flying by Venus for the first of seven times.
America's audacious mission to "touch the Sun" has now got nearer to our star than any previous human-made object.
The Parker Solar Probe passed the current record of 42.73 million km (26.55 million miles) from the Sun's surface on Monday.
The previous record was set by the German-US Helios 2 satellite back in April 1976.
That mission also set the all time speed record of close to 70km/s (43 miles/s). Parker will smash this, too.
The expectation is that it will eventually reach peak speeds around 190km/s (690,000km/h; 428,700mph).
Already setting records! And still have years to go. I can't wait for some pictures!
Count to 3. Parker just broke the record again. The spacecraft is accelerating sunward for the mission's first perihelion on Nov. 5th. At closest approach, the solar disk will seem 6 times wider than it does on Earth as the probe is hit by "brutal heat and radiation" (NASA's words). Parker's carbon-composite heat shield is expected to heat up to a sizzling 2000 deg. F.
The carbon-carbon foam heat shield is pretty crazy cool tech! This whole mission is going to be a wonderment.
Flying through the corona for the first time, the probe will take a combination of measurements and imaging to help revolutionize our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge and evolution of the solar wind. At its closest approach, the front of the solar shield faces temperatures approaching 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,377 degrees Celsius). It will be protected by a heat shield that will keep most of the instruments near room temperature.
"Our solar arrays are going to operate in an extreme environment that other missions have never operated in before," Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab's Mary Kae Lockwood, spacecraft system engineer for Parker Solar Probe, said in a statement. These temperatures would prove dangerous to conventional arrays that have flown on other missions, so new technology was required. The mission relies on a first-of-its-kind actively cooled solar array system. But before the spacecraft reaches the sun, it will have to travel through the freezing temperatures of space. "One of the biggest challenges in testing this is those transitions from very cold to very hot in a short period of time," Lockwood said. It turns out that pressurized water makes the best coolant for the instruments when the spacecraft reaches the sun. Because the probe will first have to travel through the freezing temperatures of space before reaching the broiling solar environment, any coolant would need to operate between 50 F (10 C) and 257 F (125 C), and few liquids can handle that range like water. Pressurizing the water raises its boiling point. "For the temperature range we required, and for the mass constraints, water was the solution," Lockwood said.
In Greek mythology, Icarus (the Latin spelling, conventionally adopted in English; Ancient Greek: Ἴκαρος, Íkaros, Etruscan: Vikare) is the son of the master craftsman Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth. Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus' father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea's dampness would not clog his wings or the sun's heat melt them. Icarus ignored his father's instructions not to fly too close to the sun; when the wax in his wings melted he tumbled out of the sky and fell into the sea where he drowned, sparking the idiom "don't fly too close to the sun".
The Parker Solar Probe's final flyby, in 2025, will bring the craft within a mere 3.83 million miles (6.16 million km) of the sun's surface. And the sun's powerful gravity will eventually accelerate the probe to a top speed of around 430,000 mph (690,000 km/h), NASA officials have said. The first of these two dozen close encounters is just around the corner: It officially begins Wednesday (Oct. 31), with perihelion (closest solar approach) coming on the night of Nov. 5.
"It's been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we've now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history," mission project manager Andy Driesman, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, said in a statement. "It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on Oct. 31.
MORE Error loading player: Network error NASA's Parker Solar Probe has had a big week: on Monday (Oct. 29) it broke two world records and on Wednesday (Oct. 31) it began its first close pass over the sun. That maneuver is the first of 24 planned science encounters with the sun, which will last until 2025. This time around, the spacecraft will reach its closest point to the sun on Nov. 5 at about 10:28 p.m. EST (0328 GMT on Nov. 6), according to NASA.
At that point in its voyage, the spacecraft will be just 15 million miles (24 million kilometers) from the surface of the sun and will be traveling at 213,200 mph (343,000 km/h).
There's just one catch: Because of the probe's alignment, scientists won't get the data from this week's observations for a few more weeks.
The Parker Solar Probe flew within 15 million miles (24 million kilometers) of the sun's surface Monday night. Its speed topped 213,000 mph (342,000 kph) relative to the sun, as it penetrated the outer solar atmosphere, or corona.
No spacecraft has ever gotten so close to our star.
NASA won't re-establish contact until Parker is far enough from the sun to avoid radio interference. NASA's Nicola Fox says scientists "can't wait to get the data." The observations could unlock some of the sun's mysteries.
Assuming it survives the harsh solar environment, the spacecraft will make 23 even closer approaches over the next seven years. The next is in April.
That spacecraft is NASA's Parker Solar Probe, which launched in August with a daring mission to study the star that shapes our lives. To do so, it is flying a course of 24 close loops around the sun, the first of which reached what scientists call perihelion — the moment of closest approach — Monday at 10:28 p.m. EST (0328 GMT Nov. 6).
I can't wait either! It will be nice to see just how hot the shield got on the fly-by. And maybe a photo of the solar wind itself!
But there won't be much of anything to watch or listen to during the daring approach, even for the scientists and engineers who run the mission. [The Greatest Missions to the Sun of All Time] All throughout the few days surrounding perihelion, the spacecraft is essentially on its own. That's because the sun is such a powerful source of radio-wave light that it drowns out the spacecraft's communications with Earth.
And the spacecraft isn't just responsible for independently taking measurements during that time — it also needs to protect itself from the overwhelming heat of the sun. To do so, it will continuously tilt itself to keep its thermal protection shield between the star and the instruments. Parker Solar Probe's first report back to Earth will be just a beep, according to a statement from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which manages the spacecraft. It has a repertoire of four different options, one of which means everything is fine. Once the engineers behind the spacecraft hears that first beep, they'll have a better sense of what to expect from the first delivery of detailed science data, due in early December.
By that time, the spacecraft will already be well on its way out from the sun as it prepares for its next orbit. It will achieve two more perihelions in 2019, one in April and one in September. Then, next December it will complete the second of seven Venus flybys, which nudges the spacecraft's trajectory gradually closer to the star.
A RADIO TRANSMISSION FROM THE SUN: The Parker Solar Probe has just radioed NASA with good news. The spacecraft survived its close approach to the sun on Nov. 5th. Because the sun is a giant natural source of broadband radio noise, Parker cannot transmit complicated data streams through the interference. Images and data won't arrive until early December when the probe has reached a sufficient distance from the sun again. For now, mission controllers are happy to have received a simple beacon saying the spacecraft is okay.
Earlier this week, Parker screamed around the sun at 213,200 mph only 15 million miles from the stellar surface--shattering old records for both speed and distance. Intense sunlight raised the temperature of the probe's heat shield to about 820 degrees Fahrenheit. All the while, instruments and systems behind the shield kept cool in the mid-80s F.
Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab received the status beacon at 4:46 p.m. EST on Nov. 7, 2018. It indicated, simply, "A" — the best of all four possible status signals, meaning that the probe is operating well with all instruments running and collecting science data and, if there were any minor issues, they were resolved autonomously by the spacecraft. Stay tuned for "first light" science results about one month from now.