It has been 49 years since the man has stepped on the Moon. And now it’s time to get closer to the Sun. Parker Solar Probe is the first spacecraft to enter within four million miles of the sun’s surface. It is going to make critical contributions in predicting the weather and major events in space that will affect life on Earth.
It has lifted off on August 12 at 3:31 a.m. EDT (0731 GMT) from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Though probe is the fastest-moving manmade object in history, it will take approximately 4 years to reach on the Sun’s outer atmosphere or corona. Afterall Sun is 149.6 million km far from our planet.
Objective of the Mission:
The main focus of this mission is to study the Sun’s outer atmosphere or corona to gain insight into solar wind and the material. Primarily, it will study the flow of energy, comprehend the heating of the solar corona, and explore what increases the solar wind.
Over the course of seven years, Parker will make 24 loops around our star to study the physics of the corona, the place where much of the important activity that affects the Earth seems to originate.
This spacecraft was previously known as Solar Probe Plus. Later it was named after the great astrophysicist Eugene Parker, who first described solar wind in 1958. It is the first spacecraft to be named after a living person.
Nothing compares to watching a rocket launch live, says Dr. Eugene N. Parker who watched his first rocket launch this morning as his namesake spacecraft, #ParkerSolarProbe, launched to the Sun. Watch: https://t.co/T3F4bqeATB pic.twitter.com/wYHucntNkK
— NASA (@NASA) August 12, 2018
Design and development
The most common question which will arise is how the spacecraft will be able to save itself from the tremendous heat of the Sun. It will be protected from the Sun’s heat through an 8ft-wide and 4.5in-thick carbon composite shield.
The spacecraft has been manufactured by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Its critical design review (CDR) was completed at JPL’s Laurel facility in Maryland, US, in April 2015.
The spacecraft has a simple cooling system: a heated tank that keeps the coolant from freezing during launch, two radiators that will keep the coolant from freezing, aluminum fins to maximize the cooling surface, and pumps to circulate the coolant. The cooling system is powerful enough to cool an average sized living room, and will keep the solar arrays and instrumentation cool and functioning while in the heat of the Sun.
Instruments that will help:
The spacecraft has four instruments onboard for studying solar activity. Fields Experiment (FIELDS) is the first science instrument aboard the spacecraft and is manufactured by the University of California Space Sciences Laboratory. It will be used for exploring the direct measurements of electric and magnetic fields and waves, absolute plasma density, electron temperature, and radio emissions.
The second instrument on-board the spacecraft is the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (ISIS), which has been developed by the Southwest Research Institute. It will be used to carry out observations on energetic electrons, protons, and heavy ions that are closer to high energies in the Sun’s atmosphere.
The Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) includes telescopes provided by the Naval Research Laboratory, which will take the images of the solar corona and inner heliosphere.
The fourth instrument is the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) Investigation. It will be used for counting the numerous particles in the solar wind, including electrons, protons and helium ions, and for studying their properties such as velocity, density, and temperature. it is developed by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
This is the first time in history when a spacecraft is going this much closer to the Mysterious Star of our galaxy. It is expected that it will answer many unsolved questions of science. Scientists are expecting to know the answers that how does solar wind is created and how does it come out of the outer layer of the sun.
Souvik is a Tech Enthusiast, who is crazy about Electronics and Computer Science. Whenever he gets time to get rid of his boring Engineering books, he starts reading and writing about fascinating Tech and Science topics on the internet.