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12 Amazing facts about Parker Solar Probe

12 Amazing facts about Parker Solar Probe, you must to be know

The Parker Solar Probe promises to be one of the most interesting solar system exploration missions from the United States’ space agency, NASA. As of 2018, NASA and other national space agencies have probes, rovers, landers and satellites exploring extraterrestrial environments the surface of Mars to the polar regions of Jupiter, and the Parker Solar Probe, will join them to explore the atmosphere of the Sun on a nearly seven-year mission that will begin with its launch in August 2018.

1. Parker Solar Probe Will Travel Closer to the Sun than Ever Before

The Sun is the engine of our Solar System, and, as such, humans have been interested in learning more about it since the dawn of our curiosity, but never has an object been sent so close to our closest star. The Parker Solar Probe, on its closest approach toward the end of its seven-year prime mission, Parker Solar Probe will swoop within 3.83 million miles of the solar surface. That may sound pretty far, but think of it this way: If you put Earth and the Sun on opposite ends of an American football field, Parker Solar Probe would get within four yards of the Sun's end zone. The current record-holder was a spacecraft called Helios 2, which came within 27 million miles, or about the 30 yard line. Mercury orbits at about 36 million miles from the Sun.

This will place Parker well within the Sun's corona, a dynamic part of its atmosphere that scientists think holds the keys to understanding much of the Sun's activity.

2. Faster than any human-made object

When the Parker Solar Probe is making its closest approach to the Sun, it will be moving at a speed of 700,000 kilometers per hour (430,000 miles per hour) making it the fastest object humans have ever created. According to NASA, at that speed, you could travel from Philadelphia to Washington in about one second or travel from New York to Tokyo in less than a minute.

The current record holder was the Helios 1 mission that hit a top speed of 228,000 kilometres per hour (142,000 miles per hour). Voyager 1, the farthest-travelled man-made object, is speeding away from our Solar System at a speed of 62,137 kilometres per hour (38,610 miles per hour).

3. Getting to the Sun takes a lot of power

At about 1,400 pounds, Parker Solar Probe is relatively light for a spacecraft, but it launched to space aboard one of the most powerful rockets in the world, the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy. That's because it takes a lot of energy to go to the Sun — in fact, 55 times more energy than it takes to go to Mars.

Any object launched from Earth starts out traveling at about the same speed and in the same direction as Earth — 67,000 mph sideways. To get close to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe has to shed much of that sideways speed, and a strong launch is good start.

4. The Parker Solar Probe Will Be Protected by an Incredible Heat Shield

The environment that this spacecraft will encounter as it makes its closest approaches to the Sun will be incredibly hostile. Scientists believe the temperature may reach 1,377 °C (2,511 °F) in the Sun’s corona, but thanks to an innovative heat shield, the scientific equipment housed within the probe should remain a comfortable 29 °C (84 °F).

5.  Why won't Parker Solar Probe melt?

The corona reaches millions of degrees Fahrenheit, so how can we send a spacecraft there without it melting?

The key lies in the distinction between heat and temperature. Temperature measures how fast particles are moving, while heat is the total amount of energy that they transfer. The corona is incredibly thin, and there are very few particles there to transfer energy — so while the particles are moving fast (high temperature), they don’t actually transfer much energy to the spacecraft (low heat).

It’s like the difference between putting your hand in a hot oven versus putting it in a pot of boiling water (don’t try this at home!). In the air of the oven, your hand doesn’t get nearly as hot as it would in the much denser water of the boiling pot.

6. It’s the First NASA Spacecraft to Be Named for a Living Person

Parker Solar Probe is named for Dr. Eugene Parker, the first person to predict the existence of the solar wind. In 1958, Parker developed a theory showing how the Sun’s hot corona — by then known to be millions of degrees Fahrenheit — is so hot that it overcomes the Sun’s gravity. According to the theory, the material in the corona expands continuously outwards in all directions, forming a solar wind.

This is the first NASA mission to be named for a living person, and Dr. Parker watched the launch with the mission team from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

7. More Than 1 Million Names Are Travelling to the Sun With the Parker Solar Probe

NASA solicited the public to submit their names for inclusion on a small memory drive to travel with the Parker Solar Probe to the Sun and received about 1.1 million responses including “The Franklin Institute” to join the adventure to the center of our Solar System.

8. The Parker Solar Probe Is Designed to Help Us Better Understand the “Space Weather” in Our Solar System

Whether we want to avoid power outages on Earth or successfully send humans to Mars understanding the dynamic conditions of the Sun our integral in allowing us to better predict and react to the way changing conditions of the Sun affects Earth and the rest of the Solar System.

9. Venus is Will Be Giving Parker Solar Probe Some help.

The Scientists and Engineers working on Parker Solar Probe plan to use seven flybys of the planet Venus for a gravity assist to shrink the spacecraft’s orbit around the Sun. While the craft is launching in 2018, it will not make its first close approach to the Sun until 2024 after all seven flybys have been completed. Each flyby will decrease the orbital period of the Parker Solar Probe until its traveling around the sun every 88 days.

10.Unlocking the secrets of the solar wind

Even though Dr. Parker predicted the existence of the solar wind 60 years ago, there's a lot about it we still don't understand. We know now that the solar wind comes in two distinct streams, fast and slow. We've identified the source of the fast solar wind, but the slow solar wind is a bigger mystery.

Right now, our only measurements of the solar wind happen near Earth, after it has had tens of millions of miles to blur together, cool down and intermix. Parker's measurements of the solar wind, just a few million miles from the Sun's surface, will reveal new details that should help shed light on the processes that send it speeding out into space.

11. Studying near-light speed particles

Another question we hope to answer with Parker Solar Probe is how some particles can accelerate away from the Sun at mind-boggling speeds — more than half the speed of light, or upwards of 90,000 miles per second. These particles move so fast that they can reach Earth in under half an hour, so they can interfere with electronics on board satellites with very little warning.

12. When the mission ends, Parker will go out in style.

Like Cassini at Saturn, and Magellan at Venus, Parker will eventually become part of the object it was sent to study. The spacecraft's final orbit, seven years after launch, will carry it inside that of Venus, and it will no longer be able to use the planet for gravity assists. Linda Tran, a heliophysics writer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told me Parker will stay in that orbit indefinitely, so long as it has enough fuel to keep its heat shield pointed at the Sun.

But when the fuel is gone, Parker will start to turn, and the spacecraft’s delicate components will bear the full force of the Sun at close range.

"The spacecraft will break into larger pieces, and then smaller pieces, which will continue to orbit the Sun," Tran said. It will be a poetic end for the mission—Parker will become part of the corona itself.

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