Spacewatch: Firing up for a close encounter with the sun

Nasa prepares daring mission to 'touch the Sun'

Nasa prepares daring mission to 'touch the Sun'

Of all matter in the Solar System, about 99.8 percent of it is all concentrated at the Sun. It's NASA's long-planned attempt to "Touch the Sun," and the probe will get far closer to our host star than any manmade object ever has.

The spacecraft is expected to make its closest approach to the sun in the year 2024, as it flies 3.9 million miles above the solar surface.

On each close approach to the sun, the probe will sample the solar wind, study the sun's corona, and provide close-up observations from around the star. In the nose-cone of one of the world's biggest rockets, Nasa's Parker solar probe will launch from Florida early tomorrow on a voyage so formidable that the technology to bring it to fruition did not exist until recently.

Nasa aims to collect data about the highly magnetised corona.

The answer, explains the space agency, lies in speed. Orbiting the sun at about 107,826 km per hour, relative to the Sun, the Earth is nearly always moving sideways.

The only way to reach the Sun with a probe or satellite is to cancel that sideways motion.

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FILE PHOTO: 49th NAACP Image Awards - Show - Pasadena, California, U.S., 15/01/2018 - Show host Anthony Anderson speaks on stage. The authorities have not contacted Anthony or any of his representatives about this matter.

All these gravity assists over at Venus should draw Parker's orbit closer and closer to the Sun.

The Parker Solar Probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Parker, will, as the United States space agency describes it, "touch the sun" as it flies within 3.9 million miles of the star's surface.

While shedding the unneeded sideways speed, the probe will pickup overall speed and that speed will be boosted by the extreme gravity near the Sun.

According to NASA, when the probe begins its final orbits it will be moving at approximately 430,000 miles per hour.

You've already heard plenty about the Parker Solar Probe over the past year or so, and with good reason.

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