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Nasa sending spacecraft into sun's crown

Nasa sending spacecraft into sun's crown

"In addition to using a powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, Parker Solar Probe will perform seven Venus gravity assists over its seven-year mission to shed sideways speed into Venus' well of orbital energy".

At Parker Solar Probe's closest approach to the Sun, temperatures on the heat shield will reach almost 1,371 degrees Celsius, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 29.4 degrees Celsius.

The spacecraft is protected by a heat shield that will keep it closer to room temperature, about 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The probe is expected to endure wicked heat while zooming through the solar corona to study this outermost part of the stellar atmosphere that gives rise to the solar wind.

The 65-minute launch window opens at 3:33 am (0733 GMT), and the weather forecast is 70 percent favorable for takeoff, NASA said.

Nearly everything on the spacecraft will be behind this and thus in room-temperature shade while ducking through the jagged edges of the corona, without so much as a blister on its science instruments.

"This could help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth, triggering space weather that could disrupt Global Positioning System, radio, radar and the electric grid", said Justin Kaspar, a professor at the University of MI and a principle investigator for the Parker Solar Probe.

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The details of the Parker Solar Probe's protective heat shield. "If you have a better understanding of the behavior of these solar energetic particles, then you can make better predictions about when to send astronauts to Mars or protect a satellite before it gets ripped apart by a radiation burst".

A red-hot voyage to the sun is going to bring us closer to our star than ever before. Solar physicist Eugene Parker first predicted the existence of this stream of high-energy particles, known as the solar wind, 60 years ago.

Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Parker Solar Probe will make its journey all the way to the Sun's atmosphere, or corona - closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history. After that late September flyby, the Parker should make its first close approach to the sun on November 1 - the first of about two dozen solar passes and seven gravity assists from Venus.

A launch rehearsal conducted yesterday (Aug. 8) went smoothly, Baez said, and he will receive a final weather briefing tomorrow (Aug. 10) at about 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT on August 11) to determine whether to fuel up the rocket in hopes of targeting Saturday morning's launch window. During this mission, he will measure and study the movement of high energy particles near the sun.

NASA's Messenger, which orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015, provided insight into the solar wind but was too away. By operating so close to the Sun, it will be passing through an environment with enormous radio interference. Such particles can interfere with satellite electronics, especially for satellites outside of Earth's magnetic field. The current close-to-the-sun champ, NASA's former Helios 2, got within 27 million miles (43 million kilometers) in 1976. Parker's first paper was rejected, but it was saved by a colleague, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, an astrophysicist who would be awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Just outside the Sun's atmosphere lies the emptiness of space.

Also on board: more than 1 million names of space fans submitted to NASA this past spring. While granting us life, the sun also has the power to disrupt spacecraft in orbit, and communications and electronics on Earth.

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