NASA's Parker Probe: Everything you need to know about the plan to 'touch the sun'
NASA has blasted over the parked space program and it's zooming on it's way towards the sun.
What will we learn when we get there, how is it going to survive the heat and what this all have to do with the Aurora Borealis.
I'm Claire Riley, welcome to watch this space.
Good evening from the CNN Studios in Sydney.
I'm Claire Riley and this is watch this space the show that tells you everything on Earth you need to know about what's happening in space.
And tonight we're getting up close and personal with Parker, The little probe that's going to touch the sun.
The Parker Solar probe is named after Eugene Parker.
The astrophysisist who first developed a theory of the existance of solar wind.
About the size of a small car the probe is the first human made object that will ever pass through the suns atmosphere.
Latin for the word crown, the corona wraps around the sun like a crown of burning hot plasma.
Kind of like that scene in Game of Thrones.
But, in space, it's 300 times hotter than the surface of the sun and extends millions of miles above the surface.
It holds the key to some of the solar systems biggest secrets, like solar wind and aurora, here on Earth.
Thanks Claire, She's right.
Just like your friend at every summer barbecue you've ever been to, Parker is heading straight for the Corona.
The space probe blasted off from Florida in the early morning of August 12th, in front of Eugene Parker himself and this lady
Who was super psyched to be there.
It's set to shoot past Venus, getting a gravity assist form our planetary neighbor on the way to make sure it gets nice and close to the Sun.
In November Parker will have its first solar flyby, getting within 15 million miles of the star.
But it won't stop there, it's gonna pass by the Sun 24 times during its 7 year mission.
We have a few more both from Venus just for good measure.
Eventually getting within 3.8 million miles of the star, that's about 4% of the distance between the sun and earth.
When it does it will be travelling at 430,000 miles per hour.
Setting the recordd for the fastest ever object created by humankind.
Sorry, Jimmy, you just lost the track [UNKNOWN].
So what are we gonna learn when Parker starts fraternizing with the sun?
Well, it's all about solar wind, and we're not talking about the kind of wind you get here on Earth.
Solar wind describes the charged particles that are emitted from the sun's corona and blasted out into the solar system.
On earth the charged particles that make up solar wind zoom past us at a million miles an hour quite literally.
But we manage to dodge most of the damage thanks to the Earth's magnetic field.
Without that field the solar wind would tear our atmosphere and strip away things like our ozone layer which protects us from ultraviolet radiation Unless of course you live in Australia where ozone depletion means you can literally get sun burnt 365 a year.
But we don't miss all of the effects of solar radiation down here on earth, the charged particles that do make it through our atmosphere are responsible for natural phenomenon like aura borealis.
So next time you're chowing down on a nice meal of steamed hams and watching the Northern Lights, you can thank solar wind for that.
According to NASA, the primary goals of the Parker mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona, and to explore what accelerates solar wind.
And you can't do that from down here on Earth, that's why NASA needs to go partial Smash Mouth, and start walking near the sun.
Which means going right through that corona.
It's gonna get toasty in there, we're talking 2,500 degrees Farenheit, or almost 1,400 degrees Celsius.
Now Parker is packed with four main instruments that will gather data in the corona.
Studying magnetic and electric fields, measuring particles, and imaging the solar wind itself.
But these space instruments are going to need protection when they start passing through that blazing plasma crown.
For that NASA has designed 4.5 inche thick thermal protection system like from everyone's favorite material carbon.
Well more accurately a quote carbon carbon composite sandwiching a light weight carbon foam core.
That's a lot of carbon.
It's also being spread with a special white coating to help reflects the sun's energy.
Thanks to that design, NASA says the front of the shield will be able to withstand up to 2,500 degrees fahrenheit, which the back of the back of the shield will be able to handle a more temperate 650 degrees.
So while a trip to the sun is a straight up 10 out of 10 on the galactic death scale for us humans, Parker is gonna be a okay.
Which brings us to the space weather.
Over to you Claire.
That's right, Claire.
NASA says that this mission should help researchers better forecast space weather events, which can do everything from knocking out radio communications to harming astronauts in orbit, and even affecting the power grid.
Which leads us to our space weather forecast for today, cloudy with a chance of plasma.
It's going to be a long and intensely hot journey for the Parker Solo Probe, but from all of us here at c/net, we wish that little guy a sunny expedition.
Safe travels Parker and take it easy on the Coronas.
That's it for this weeks edition of Watch This Space.
If you 've enjoyed our broadcast, then please hit the like button on your remote and remember to subscribe to get further space news as it happens.
I'm Claire Riley for c/net.
Goodnight and God speed.
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