NASA launched a probe to 'touch the sun'

Ismael LynchAug 13, 2018

The first launch attempt on Saturday was postponed at the last minute due to technical problem related to a helium gas sensor on the rocket. But Sunday gave way to complete success.

Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles blasted out in the control centre moments after the team burst into applause at the successful lift-off.

It left in the early hours of yesterday morning and will end up being just 3.8 million miles away from the surface of the sun.

New Horizons is reportedly almost four billion miles from Earth, far beyond Pluto, measuring "a wall of hydrogen" where the waning of our Sun's energy is "creating a boundary where interstellar hydrogen piles up at the edge of the outward pressure caused by the solar wind's energy".

The probe is created to study the sun's ultra-hot outer atmosphere, called the corona, among other mysteries of our star.

Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, said: 'The sun is full of mysteries. She urged it to "go touch the sun!"

The car-sized probe was launched aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket at 3.31 a.m. The closest we've been before is around 27 million miles, so we're getting there. It's going to make 24 orbits of the sun and will break speed records by travelling at 430,000 miles per hour.

Protected by a revolutionary new heat shield, the spacecraft will fly past Venus in October.

The unmanned spacecraft's mission is to get closer than any human-made object ever to the center of our solar system, plunging into the Sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, during a seven-year mission. To snuggle up to the sun, it will fly past Venus seven times over seven years.

The unprecedented sun-skimming probe that lifted off today from the U.S. is set to study the "solar winds" proposed in the paper by Dr Eugene Newman Parker, who has now become the first living scientist to have mission named after him.

The probe will make 24 close approaches to the sun over seven years.

One of those watching the historic moment was Dr Eugene Parker, the now 91-year-old scientist who first suggested the possibility of solar winds in 1958 and who the craft is named after.

In order to reach an orbit around the sun, the Parker Solar Probe will take seven flybys of Venus that will essentially give a gravity assist, shrinking its orbit over the course of almost seven years.

"We've accomplished something that decades ago, lived exclusively in the realm of science fiction", he added, describing the probe as one of NASA's "strategically important" missions.

"The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth", said Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of MI.

These solar outbursts are poorly understood, but have the potential to wipe out power to millions of people. "Why has it taken us 60 years?"

"This space weather has direct influence, not always positive, on our technology in space, our spacecraft, it disrupts our communications, it creates a hazardous environment for astronauts and in the most extreme cases can actually affect our power grids here on the Earth", said Alex Young, associate director of NASA's heliophysics program.

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