NASA to Send Solar Probe Directly Into Sun's Atmosphere

Posted on May 31, 2017

Parker Solar Probe

NASA has announced a mission to "touch" the sun. NASA will send a solar probe directly into the sun's atmosphere for the first time. The Parker Solar Probe is named in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker.

The car-sized probe is slated to launch in summer 2018. NASA says data from the mission will be used to improve space weather forecasts and predict solar storms. NASA also wants to better understand the connection between the Sun and the Earth.

NASA says, "The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles. Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its dangerous journey. Parker Solar Probe will carry four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind."

The spacecraft will come as close as 3.9 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) to the Sun. This is within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before. The probe will be protected by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield that can withstand temperatures as high as nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,377 Celsius).

A website about the Parker Solar Probe can be found here.

Image: NASA