If you are thinking of taking some time tonight to watch the peak of the Perseid meteor shower tonight then you might want to take a moment today to wave hi to Parker, the probe that was launched in the early hours of the morning that will be heading almost straight at the sun!
On what NASA dubbed SUNday they have launched their Parker Solar Probe which they are planning to use to study the sun in ways that have never been done before. The probe was named after Eugene Parker, the man who proposed the existence of Solar Wind some 60 years ago, who at 91 years old was on hand at the launch site; it’s the first time a NASA spacecraft has been named after a living person. It had been scheduled to launch on Saturday morning but technical trouble forced a postponement.
#ParkerSolarProbe lifted off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:31 a.m. EDT aboard a @ulalaunch #DeltaIVHeavy! 🚀 Follow along with the mission here and at https://t.co/KOu1HaS2K3 as we explore the Sun like never before. pic.twitter.com/BSAtpb6QVr
— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) August 12, 2018
The Parker Probe is set to break a few records on its 7-year mission, including getting 7 times closer to the Sun than the Helios 2 spacecraft which was the previous record holder. It will also be travelling faster than any man made object previously when it reaches its 22nd orbit of the sun it should reach speeds of 690,000 kilometers per hour.
— NASA_LSP (@NASA_LSP) August 12, 2018
It’s very first pass of the sun is expected to come in November. The intent of studying the sun so closely is to get a better understanding of its effects on things like; power grids, satellites, and astronauts, so that they might be better protected from extreme solar effects.
How will the probe do such research without burning up? NASA scientists have given it the best protections they could provide. And provided the rest of us with a video explaining it.
“Why won’t the #ParkerSolarProbe spacecraft melt?” is a perfectly reasonable question to ask about this morning's launch to "touch" the Sun. Watch our engineers use a blowtorch to demonstrate 🔥🔥🔥: https://t.co/RL38PIfEa6 pic.twitter.com/XIA9NF8HLP
— NASA (@NASA) August 12, 2018
This shield will act like an umbrella for the mission to protect the instruments performing the studies. This mission has been on the books at NASA since 1958 and is just now getting the chance to happen thanks to advancements in technology. It’s a mission 60 years in the making with more than 1 million names aboard, as well as photos of Eugene Parker himself, and a copy of his paper on solar wind.