Successfully – after a day’s postponement due to a technical anomaly – the NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, the new high-tech satellite, sized as a small car, will be launched orbit around the Sun to launch it study from the closest distance to date.
The launch took place shortly after 10:30 am Greece time by the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Verde, Florida, with a powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket from the United Launch Alliance. If everything goes well along the way, the boat will approach the Sun this November.
No other human machine will have come close to our star. In its closest approach, the Parker Solar Probe will fly at a speed of approximately 700,000 kilometers per hour (faster than any other), only six million kilometers above the surface of the Sun, seven times shorter than any other vessel to date. The hitherto record of the closest crossing of the Sun belongs to Helios 2, which in 1976 reached a distance of about 43 million kilometers (the average Earth-Sun distance is 150 million km).
Solar Parker Probe, with its various modern instruments, will help scientists illuminate the mysteries of the crown, the outer area of the solar atmosphere above the surface of the Sun. The crown stretches over millions of kilometers and “generates” the solar wind that penetrates our solar system.
It is hoped that for the first time there will finally be a response to the greatest solar mystery: because the sun’s crown is up to 300 times hotter than the visible surface of the star, something unexpected. Since the energy of the Sun is produced inside it, its surface should have a much higher temperature than its atmosphere – but the opposite is the case.
The mechanisms behind the acceleration of the charged high energy particles, which the Sun is constantly emitting in the space around it, can be investigated and which can be moved at speeds above half the speed of light as they are removed from the star. These particles can cause serious interference to satellite systems, especially those moving beyond the Earth’s magnetic field.
The vessel has four categories of scientific instruments: FIELDS, WISPR (camera to photograph the mass bursts and other solar phenomena), SWEAP (particle recording of solar wind) and ISOIS (particle count in a broad energy spectrum).
The satellite bears the name of the American natural Eugene Parker, who in 1958 published the first scientific study on the existence of the solar wind. As she is still living, she is the first time that NASA gives her a mission the name of an alive scientist – something particularly honorable to him.
Crucial to the success of the seven-year mission, costing about one and a half billion dollars, is the high-tech thermal shield of the vessel to prevent it from being “cooked” by the Sun, which allows it to operate in near-room temperature (around 29 degrees Celsius ) when the outside temperature is at least 1,370 degrees.
Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory designed, built and controlled the Parker Solar Probe, which is scheduled to make 24 rounds around the Sun.