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.