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Parker Solar Probe launched on sun-study mission

13 August 2018

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will have to survive hard heat and radiation conditions.

On board the Delta IV Heavy rocket is the Parker Solar Probe on its first mission to the sun.

With this first-of-its-kind stellar mission, scientists hope to unlock the many mysteries of the sun, a commonplace yellow dwarf star around 4.5 billion years old.

"I have learnt a very important lesson of my professional scientific career from him: to be generous to the ideas of others, as long as they are not obviously wrong, and even if they contradict my own personal views", he said. It is expected to launch in 2020, arriving at its closest position to the Sun towards the end of Parker's planned seven years of operations.

"Chandra, as he was popularly known, is another astrophysicist with his name tagged to a space mission, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory", Nandi said.

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The probe is protected by heat shields capable of withstanding temperatures up to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit, and it will complete 24 orbits of the sun by 2025, reaching speeds up to 430,000 miles per hour.

Sunday's flight marked the 129th successful flight for ULA, and the 10th for the Delta IV Heavy rocket. All I can say is wow, here we go.

"I really have to turn from biting my nails and getting it launched to thinking about all the interesting things, which I don't know yet, (that) will be made clear, I assume, over the next five or six or seven years", Parker said in a NASA interview.

The Parker Solar Probe will have to travel about 430,000 miles per hour and use a high-tech heat shield to survive the trip. Each flyby will provide an orbit-shaping gravity boost, drawing it ever closer to the sun and straight into the corona - the sun's outermost atmosphere.

"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. "Each time we fly by, we get closer and closer to the Sun".

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Good news everybody, NASA is about to send a massively expensive spacecraft to boldly go where no man has gone before.

The probe will make its closest approach in 2024 when the next total solar eclipse is expected to be seen over the US, and with that, the spacecraft will be visible.

However the technology to make the spacecraft small and light enough to travel at incredible speeds - while surviving the sun's punishing environment and the extreme changes in temperature - are only now possible.

Nicky Fox, from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab - who were instrumental in the building of the spacecraft - said: "We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star".

The delicate instrument comes equipped with an array of instruments and tools which will scan the Sun for solar winds and magnetic fields.

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Parker Solar Probe launched on sun-study mission