On July 31, 2018, NASA&’s Parker Solar Probe, named in honor of pioneering astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will launch straight towards the sun to begin a seven-year mission orbiting our planet’s life-force. The first mission to have a star as its’ destination will be designed to collect data in the hopes of better-predicting solar storms, as well as to help answer questions pertaining to the sun and how it functions.
The probe will make 24 orbits around the sun, all of which will be made possible by a “shield constructed from a carbon-composite.” This shield will allow the probe to get closer to the sun’s scalding 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit outer atmosphere than any other probe has gotten before.
As we mentioned, one of the central focuses of the launch will be to collect data on solar storms, which are a variety of mass and energy eruptions from the solar surface. Although star-gazers often laud certain so-called “side-effects” of such storms. In other words, the energy particles released during the storms that collide with Earth’s magnetic field and trapped radiation belts to create the Aurora Borealis are responsible for major disruptions in our planet’s electrical systems. Additionally, scientists hope to learn the reason that the sun’s outer atmosphere burns so much hotter than its surface— a fact that defies all known laws of nature.
The hopes of solving such long-unanswered questions have prompted scientists at NASA to conduct a variety of solar voyages for over 22 years now. The original 1995 launch was done in the hopes of studying the sun’s supersonic solar wind, as well as its inner and outer structure. The probe remained orbiting roughly 1.5 kilometers from Earth for nearly ten years, and the data gleaned during the mission was crucial in the preliminary building processes of the Parker Solar Probe.
Top photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, CC BY S-A 2.0
Natalie Wickstrom is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia. She probably wrote this piece to the tune of a movie score whilst chewing gum.