NASA Renames Solar Probe Mission to Honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker
NASA Renames Solar Probe Mission to Honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker

Launching in 2018  NASA will be sending for the first time a probe to have a nosey at our Sun.   The probe, recently renamed to honour Physicist Eugene Parker, is aptly called Parker Solar Probe. 

Eugene Parker was the chappy whom firsttheorised  that the sun constantly sends out a flow of particles and energy called the solar wind.  In 1958, Parker then a young professor at the university’s Enrico Fermi Institute published an article in the Astrophysical Journal called “Dynamics of the interplanetary gas and magnetic fields.” Parker believed there was high speed matter and magnetism constantly escaping the sun, and that it affected the planets and space throughout our solar system.

This phenomenon, now known as the solar wind, has been proven to exist repeatedly through direct observation. Parker’s work forms the basis for much of our understanding about how stars interact with the worlds that orbit them.
Parker Solar Probe is on track for launch during a 20-day window that opens July 31, 2018. The mission is part of NASA’s Living With a Star program to explore aspects of the sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. 

To unlock the mysteries of the corona, but also to protect a society that is increasingly dependent on technology from the threats of space weather, SPP will use seven Venus flybys over nearly seven years to gradually shrink its orbit around the Sun. The spacecraft will come as close as 3.9 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) to the Sun, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

The sun is the center of our solar system and makes up 99.8 percent of the mass of the entire solar system. 

The mission has been in the works according to NASA Goddard for 60 years.  The Sun is the only star that we can study up close and by studying it we can better understand the other stars in the universe. The Sun is also the source of dangerous solar winds that can shake Earth’s magnetic fields, disrupt our satellites, endanger astronauts, and even affect technology on Earth’s surface. Being able to predict this activity could prevent disaster. These same solar winds spread throughout our entire solar system and understanding them will be an important step in safely sending astronauts further from home. Apart from that it is the source of light and heat on planet Earth and is essential to the survival of life as we know it. 

The probe is going to be in orbit around the Sun just 3.7 million miles from the surface. Which might sound like a long way but it’s actually 7 times closer than we have ever gotten before. The current record holder is the Helios 2 spacecraft which came within 27 million miles in 1976.

I would of thought the name Icarus, would be more befitting.  

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