Nasa blasts off historic probe to 'touch Sun'

Olive Hawkins
August 12, 2018

NASA has successfully launched a spacecraft destined to become the fastest man-made object ever as it gets closer to the sun than we've been before.

Nasa's most powerful rocket, which is carrying the satellite, was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida in the early hours of Sunday morning.

NASA's first mission to the sun - will expolore the sun's atmosphere and its outermost atmosphere, the corona.

The car-sized probe is created to give scientists a better understanding of solar wind and geomagnetic storms that risk wreaking chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.

In particular, it is hoped to give scientists a greater understanding of solar wind storms that have the potential to knock out the power on Earth.

The craft will be protected from the heat of the sun by a revolutionary new heat shield.

More knowledge of solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.

"I realise that might not sound that close, but imagine the Sun and the Earth were a metre apart".

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If all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Altogether, it will make 24 close approaches over the next seven years. The corona holds the answers to many of scientists' outstanding questions about the Sun's activity and processes.

Thousands of spectators jammed the launch site, including 91-year-old astrophysicist Eugene Parker for whom the spacecraft is named.

One of the reasons, scientists are sending the probe is the Sun's atmosphere and the weird property it exhibits, of being hotter than the surface of the sun itself.

Tools on board will measure high-energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.

A white light imager will take images of the atmosphere right in front of the Sun.

"We'll also be the fastest human-made object ever, travelling around the Sun at speeds of up to 690,000km/h (430,000mph) - NY to Tokyo in under a minute!" she told BBC News.

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