NASA To Embark On Historic Solar Probe Mission

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"She's going to the last major region of our solar system to be explored". Although the mission is scheduled for seven years, we should get the first data readouts sometime in December. NASA specifically chose the rocket for this mission as the probe would require a considerable amount of thrust to be ejected out of Earth's gravitation pull and toward the sun.

"It's a pretty tough shield", said Fox.

The entire project cost $1.5 billion and the mission will continue until 2025. Talk of such a solar probe, he said, "probably goes back at least 40 years". Most of its instruments hide behind a giant heat shield that's nearly 8 feet (2.3 m) across and 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick.

The spacecraft's path to the sun runs past Venus. That shield should absorb the extreme heat of the sun, heating up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit and keeping the spacecraft and its sensitive instruments at 85 degrees Fahrenheit, according to NASA. For perspective, Earth is about 93 million miles from the center of our solar system.

The mission Sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, the closest any man-made instrument has ever got to a star. Either the magnetic field allows for large energy conductions between the surface of the Sun and the corona, and when large energy discharges occur, they heat the plasma, or the heat conduction is produced by oscillations of this same magnetic field which will heat the plasma particles in the corona. When these streams of plasma and energetic particles strike Earth, they interact with our planet's magnetic field, generating handsome northern and southern lights. As one scientist notes, this is a shield Captain America would envy.

The spacecraft holds photos of Parker as well as a copy of his 1958 research paper on what he termed solar wind.

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Space weather includes the lovely, harmless auroras that paint the northern and southern sky, but not every type of space weather is so benign.

The goal is to understand - and be better able to predict - the behavior of the solar wind that triggers auroral displays on Earth and occasionally wreaks havoc with power grids and satellites.

"The sun is full of mysteries", said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.

This is not the first mission to study the Sun, but none of the previous devices did not even come close to the source of light and heat so close - only 6 million kilometers. But in a few years, that will change, with the sun's activity picking up speed again.

It's important to learn as much as possible about the sun and how it produces space weather because Earth is inside the atmosphere of the sun. So really the only way we can now do it is to do this daring mission to plunge into the corona. And so, these are sort of the three fundamental questions we want to address: "the speed of the solar wind, this eruptive phenomena, solar storms, and how is the corona heated?"

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