A historic mission that will revolutionize our understanding of the sun has just taken off from Florida
On Sunday, August 12, after a delay of a few hours, the Parker Solar Probe, which will "touch" the sun and analyze the composition of the solar atmosphere, was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
With 685 kilograms of weight, the probe is being propelled by a small rocket that will allow us to approach the Sun at the minimum distance recorded in history: only 6.61 million kilometers away, which is equivalent to about 16 times the Earth-Moon distance.
How is the probe composed?
According to NASA, the Parker Solar Probe of 685Kg will have four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma, and energetic particles. In addition, a carbon shield 4.5 inches thick (11.43 cm), will allow it to withstand temperatures of almost 2,500 F (1,377 C), while its interior is maintained at room temperature.
What is the mission?
Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA's Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society.
In seven over flights, which will last approximately seven years, Parker Solar Probe will use Venus's gravity to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun and reach its outermost layer in 2024.
"The launch energy to reach the Sun is 55 times that required to reach Mars, and twice the amount needed to reach Pluto," Yanping Guo, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, who designed the trajectory of the mission, said in a statement. "During the summer, the Earth and the other planets of our solar system are in the most favorable alignment to allow us to approach the Sun."
Making use of in situ measurements and images, Nasa aims to:
- Track the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind
- Obtain information about the physics of other stars
- Determine the structure and dynamics of the planet and the magnetic fields in the sources of solar wind
- Explore the mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles
It is also presumed that this mission will contribute to the correct prediction of changes in the Earth's space environment that affect life and technology.
"We've been inside Mercury's orbit and we've done incredible things, but until we touch the Sun, we cannot answer these questions," said Nicola Fox, mission project scientist.
"Why did it take us 60 years? There were no materials that allowed us to do it, we had to make a heat shield, and we love it. Something that can withstand the extremely cold and hot changes of its 24 orbits is revolutionary”.
This mission will arrive seven times closer to the sun than the record holder: the Helios 2 spacecraft, which reached 27 million miles in 1976.
LatinAmerican Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez
Translated from “¿Tocaremos el sol? Todo lo que necesitas saber de la Misión Parker Solar Probe”
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