Science

Mo Brooks congratulates Decatur-based company's solar probe launch

Mo Brooks congratulates Decatur-based company's solar probe launch

Eugene Parker, front right, a pioneer in heliophysics watches the launch of the Delta IV rocket, carrying the Parker Solar Probe, at the Kennedy Space Center, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018, in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

At 3:31 a.m. on Sunday, NASA's newest spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Although that distance may sound too far to justify Nasa's claim that it will "touch" the star's surface, the probe is expected to break through the Sun's atmosphere - known as the Corona - a total of 24 times over seven years while gathering data about its climate. "Whenever you're there, you take a breather and then you start working".

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will have to survive hard heat and radiation conditions.

The Delta IV Heavy rocket thundered into the pre-dawn darkness, thrilling onlookers for miles around.

The first week of the mission will require the spacecraft to perform some tasks.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe is on its way for a rendezvous with the Sun.




While at the sun, the spacecraft will experience temperatures up to 2,500 F. Only a 4.5 inch heat shield and water cooling systems will protect the spacecraft and its four science instruments from the intense heat of the sun.

"We'll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before - within the corona of a star", according to project scientist Nicky Fox of APL. The NASA earlier invited people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on the microchip aboard the historic Parker Solar Probe mission. The Earth is 93 million miles away from the sun, and the Parker Probe will eventually get within 3.8 million miles of its surface, staying comfortably cool despite the extreme heat and radiation, and allowing scientists to vicariously explore the sun in a way never before possible. He proposed the existence of solar wind, a steady, supersonic stream of particles blasting off the sun, 60 years ago.

"I have learnt a very important lesson of my professional scientific career from him: to be generous to the ideas of others, as long as they are not obviously wrong, and even if they contradict my own personal views", he said.

Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites created to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind.

The Parker Solar Probe had successfully reached space and phoned home.

This image made available by NASA shows an artist's rendering of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. Among the puzzlers: Why is the corona hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun and why is the sun's atmosphere continually expanding and accelerating, as the University of Chicago's Parker accurately predicted in 1958?