Nasa probe blasts off on mission to 'touch the Sun'

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The probe is named after the American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, who was the first to study and discover the continuously flowing solar winds in the Sun's atmosphere in 1958.

It will be the fastest human-made object with speeds up to 430,000 miles per hour, able to survive million degree temperatures, orbiting the sun just 4 million miles from its surface, after a 90 million-mile trip, to get the first measurements of the sun's energy.

"What's so cool about all of this is hanging out with Parker and seeing his emotion", Zurbuchen said, adding that Parker went from being excited about the launch to being excited about the science to come. The mission will rely on measurements and imaging to revolutionise our understanding of the corona and how processes there ultimately affect near-Earth space. The launch was set to take place Saturday but was postponed.

Aram....what's the latest? Well Mark...after a one-day delay, NASA's Parker Solar Probe successfully lifted off on Sunday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and is now on its way to the Sun.

The craft is equipped with a first of it's kind heat shield, and an internal water cooling system that will protect the instruments from the extreme conditions.

"Until you actually go there and touch the sun, you really can't answer these questions", said Project Scientist Nicola Fox.

The probe will be 3.9 million miles from the sun's surface, making it the closest spacecraft to the sun's surface in history.

At each approach to the Sun, the solar arrays retract behind the heat shield's shadow, leaving only a small segment exposed to the Sun's intense rays.

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They are also curious about the solar winds that sometimes disrupt satellite and ground communications.

"The mission is slated for a seven-year primary mission", Brown said. The carbon composite shield will experience 2,500-degree heating on the side facing the sun while keeping temperatures at a comfortable 85 degrees in the shade where the probe's instruments and critical systems are located.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from NY to Tokyo in one minute - some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object. Most astronomers at that time thought of outer space as perfectly empty and bare, and the notion of solar wind sweeping particles through space didn't make sense to many people.

This mission is the brainchild of Parker, who long ago predicted the turbulence of solar energy and its impact on our planet. Solar wind carries charged particles and magnetic clouds away from the sun, and some of it reaches as far as the earth's atmosphere.

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

In 1976 Nasa's Helios 2 spacecraft travelled within 27 million miles of the sun.

On the official NASA website reported that the device was launched on Sunday, August 12 at 10:31 am Kiev time on the Delta IV Heavy rocket, reports the Politek.

It was the first rocket launch ever witnessed by Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago.