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NASA to launch first-ever solar mission to ‘touch the sun’

09 August 2018

As particles within the corona gets frequently heated and shoot out from the Solar System's star, which is called "solar wind". The launch window opens at 3:45 a.m. on Saturday.

The project is named in honour of American physicist Eugene Parker who first speculated on the nature of solar winds in 1958, and the first time a Nasa mission has honoured a living person.

On its first pass by the sun, three months after launch, the Parker Solar Probe will already be closer to the sun than any other spacecraft has ever been - about 10 million miles out, or about 65 solar radii.

"The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world and even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are lovely - but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere".

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Designed at Johns Hopkins University, the Solar Parker Probe will depart on the 11th from Cape Canaveral (the main center of USA space activities) on a mission that will last seven years and analyze the solar wind.

"If all goes according to plan, the probe will take off aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket in the early morning of August 11 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida".

"It's going to be a night launch of a Delta-IV Heavy", he said. The gravity assist is planned for 2 October, when the probe will have to be on track and approach the Sun on 5 November.

The Parker Solar Probe sits in a clean room on July 6, 2018, at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, after the installation of its heat shield.

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Temperatures in the sun's corona reach a million degrees, so to perform its unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the sun's heat by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield.

The pioneering Parker mission is setting out to find answers to some of the most ardent questions concerning our understanding on the sun.

In a statement, NASA said the probe "will travel through the sun's atmosphere, closer to its surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions - and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star". Also on the agenda is an investigation into what triggers the coronal mass ejections, eruptions of scalding, charged material seeping into interplanetary space.

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NASA to launch first-ever solar mission to ‘touch the sun’