NASA Will Send A Spacecraft To The Sun In 2018

Posted: Feb 27 2017, 10:20pm CST | by , Updated: Feb 27 2017, 10:38pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA will Send a Spacecraft to the Sun in 2018
Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
 

Solar Probe Plus mission could launch as early as July 2018 and should help scientists solve a number of mysteries about our nearest star

NASA has launched several missions into the outer space over the years. But none of them intended to arrive at the Sun’s surface and to study its atmosphere closely. However that should happen soon after NASA’s upcoming mission to the sun.

Slated to launch in 2018, NASA’s Solar Probe Plus spacecraft will dive into sun’s surface as close as 4 million miles and will face the heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. This promises to be one of the most dangerous space missions ever launched in which a spacecraft will attempt to take direct samples from our fiery neighboring star for the first time. 

 “This is going to be our first mission to fly to the sun. We can't get to the very surface of the sun.” Eric Christian, a NASA research scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt told Live Science.

The temperature in the surface of the sun is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit but the atmosphere above is sizzling 3.5 million degrees Fahrenheit. Why does the temperature of different layers of the sun vary tremendously? Scientists knew little about such processes and would need to do much more to better understand them.

“You'd think the farther away you get from a heat source, you'd get colder. Why the atmosphere is hotter than the surface is a big puzzle." Christian said.

Solar probe will take direct measurements from the near-Sun environment which will revolutionize our knowledge of coronal heating, the origin and evolution of the solar wind and occasional emission of high energy particles that are hazardous for spacecrafts and astronauts. 

“Solar Probe Plus will be an extraordinary and historic mission, exploring what is arguably the last region of the solar system to be visited by a spacecraft, the Sun’s outer atmosphere or corona as it extends out into space.” Solar Probe Plus website says.

Flying so close to the sun means spacecraft could really heat up and disintegrate. So, NASA has designed a carbon-composite heat shield, which will withstand temperatures exceeding 2,550 degrees Fahrenheit as well as blasts of intense solar radiation. At the closest approach,  the spacecraft will come as close as 3.7 million miles to sun’s surface - about eight times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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