Solar probe set to 'kiss' sun in seven year study

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It's on an unprecedented quest that will take it straight through the wispy edges of the corona, or outer solar atmosphere, just 3.8 million (6 million kilometers) from the sun's surface.

It will also be the fastest-moving man-made object in space.

Also, astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi says this is one of NASA's most exciting missions.

"We need more understanding to predict these flares and coronal mass ejections as they produce space weather which could affect our technology-based society by damaging satellites and power grids", Korreck said, adding that "We also get the handsome northern and southern lights because of these effects". Less than 2 minutes before its planned liftoff on Saturday (Aug. 11), a helium pressure alarm went off on the Delta IV Heavy, thwarting the day's launch attempt.

A rocket carrying the Parker Solar Probe lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Sunday.

"Fly baby girl, fly!" project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University tweeted just before lift-off.

The unmanned Parker Solar Probe aims to get closer than any human-made object in history to the center of our solar system.

The probe is created to study the sun's ultra-hot outer atmosphere, called the corona, among other mysteries of our star. NASA's probe will pass by Venus a total of seven times (starting in early October) as it uses the planet's gravity to whip itself ever closer to the star.

"It will help us understand a fundamental aspect of the sun-Earth interaction, the solar wind", Alexander said.

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NASA has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to "touch the Sun".

"I really have to turn from biting my nails and getting it launched to thinking about all the interesting things, which I don't know yet, (that) will be made clear, I assume, over the next five or six or seven years", Parker said in a NASA interview.

The car-sized spacecraft will speed through space at 430,000mph - coming within four million miles of the Earth's nearest star by 2024. Sensors on the spacecraft will make certain the heat shield faces the sun at the right times.

The Parker Solar Probe will have to travel about 430,000 miles per hour and use a high-tech heat shield to survive the trip. FIELDS will measure electric and magnetic waves around the probe, WISPR will take images, SWEAP will count charged particles and measure their properties, and ISOIS will measure the particles across a wide spectrum. He and other scientists designed an instrument called the solar probe cup.

The Parker Solar Probe's launch marked a special milestone for one solar scientist: Eugene Parker. To snuggle up to the sun, it will fly past Venus seven times over seven years.

NASA hopes the probe will help determine which parts of the sun are providing the energy source for solar winds and solar particles, and how they accelerate to such high speeds.

Now the University of Chicago professor has had the last laugh with the probe named after him - the first living person to be so honoured.

The spacecraft will travel through material with temperatures greater than several million degrees Celsius while being bombarded with intense sunlight.

The Parker Solar Probe will carry a chip with photos of Parker, his revolutionary paper and his message to the sun: "Let's see what lies ahead".

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