Nasa prepares daring mission to 'touch the Sun'

An artist’s rendering of the Parker Solar Probe nearing the Sun

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, is set to use seven Venus fly-bys over almost seven years to steadily reduce its orbit around the Sun, using instruments created to image the solar wind and study electric and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles.

Nasa is set to launch a spacecraft on a scorching journey towards the sun, with an aim to offer the closest-ever glimpse of the star at the centre of the solar system.

Its mission is to help scientists unlock the mysteries of the sun's atmosphere and answer questions like why its corona, the outermost layer of the solar atmosphere, is hotter than its surface.

Nasa's Parker Solar Probe is now on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida. "It gives me the sense of excitement of an explorer".

As the probe orbits the sun, it will experience extreme radiation with temperatures expected to reach 1,377C (2,510F), which is close to the melting point of steel. It's the fastest any man-made object will have ever traveled and the probe will likely hold that title for a long time. The probe will use Venus' gravity to slow itself down as it makes its close approaches with the sun.


During its years in space, the Parker is expected to reveal never-before-seen aspects of the sun's atmosphere and the star as a whole.

The spacecraft is named for Eugene Parker, the scientist who first predicted the existence of the solar wind - fast-moving solar particles that stream through the entire solar system. If we're able to learn more about its origin and behavior, it might be possible to predict when space weather might occur. Disturbances in its solar wind can have an impact on near-Earth space, which can affect our planet's satellites.

Scientists have had to take great care to make sure that the Parker Solar Probe doesn't burn up in the process of conducting its important science.

In order to combat the intense temperatures, the probe has been covered with a carbon composite coated ceramic capable of withstanding temperatures up to 1,650C (3,002F).

NASA says it's ready for a historic trip to the sun this weekend.

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