NASA second attempt at solar probe launch

Parker Solar Probe

Nasa has launched a probe that will head closer to the sun than any other spacecraft before it.

An artist's impression of the Parker Solar Probe, its heat shield pointed toward the sun as it heads in for a close flyby through the star's outer atmosphere.

Launching in a ball of flame that lit up the night sky, Nasa's Parker Solar Probe today set off on its seven-year odyssey to unlock the secrets of the Sun.

Roughly the size of a small auto, PSP will get almost seven times closer to the sun than any previous spacecraft. "Each time we fly by, we get closer and closer to the Sun".

The car-sized probe will utilise Venus to try and achieve an orbit around the sun by helping to slow it down.

Yet the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The probe's 4.5-inch-thick, 8-foot-wide carbon-composite shield has been built to endure temperatures of up than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

It took one of the most powerful rockets in the world to get the mission moving - not because the probe is large or heavy, but because of the speed required to cruise through the solar system.

The temperature near the sun's corona can be viewed as an obstacle, according to Geoffrey Brown, a public affair officer with the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. After the gravity boosts, PSP will eventually hit 430,000 miles per hour in the corona at its closest approach - the equivalent of going from Chicago to Beijing in under a minute.

The probe is created to plunge into the Sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, during a seven-year mission. The corona holds the answers to many of scientists' outstanding questions about the Sun's activity and processes. "That Editor was the Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar", said Nandi, who is also the chairman of the Working Group on Solar-Stellar Environments of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). "We have to understand and characterize this place that we're traveling through".

This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after a living person.

The mission is named for Dr Eugene Parker, a physicist at the University of Chicago who proposed the existence of solar wind.

"The sky was waiting for us, Venus was waiting for us, and it was just an unbelievable sight to see".

"All I have to say is wow, here we go. We're in for some learning over the next several years", he said as he watched the lift-off.

PSP is carrying four instrument suites created to study the sun's magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind.

The Parker Solar Probe's launch marked a special milestone for one solar scientist: Eugene Parker. That's about enough to run a kitchen blender.

During the journey, the spacecraft will fly by Venus at speeds of 4,30,000 miles per hour, the equivalent of flying from NY to Tokyo in one minute. Sensors on the spacecraft will make certain the heat shield faces the sun at the right times.

The probe's destination is the sun's corona, which it will fly through over two dozen times, eventually coming within less than 4 million miles (6.4 million kilometers) of our star's surface.

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