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August 12, 2018

Flying into the Sun in a Blaze of Glory on NASA’s Solar Probe

Two days ago the Parker Solar Probe launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, a rocket only surpassed in power by SpaceX’s brand new Falcon Heavy.

You need a lot of power if you’re going to fly to the Sun, after all, which is what the Parker Solar Probe will do over the next seven years, getting closer to a star than ever before while facing unprecedented levels of heat and radiation.

The probe will use the gravity of Venus to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. At its closest, it will fly right through the Sun’s multi-million-degree temperature corona, just 3.8 million miles from the Sun’s surface and well within the orbit of Mercury, which orbits an average of 36 million miles from the Sun.

Questions the Parker Solar Probe will answer

The probe will seek to answer the following questions, which have stumped scientists for more than 60 years:

  • – Why is the corona hotter than the solar surface?
  • – How is solar wind accelerated?
  • – From where do high-energy solar particles emanate?

The probe is named ‘Parker’ after Dr. Eugene N. Parker, whose “profound contributions pioneered our modern understanding of the Sun.”

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