NASA blasts off historic probe to 'touch sun'

12 Août, 2018, 12:53 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • An illustration of the sun-bound Parker Solar Probe

NASA's Parker Solar Probe, mankind's first mission to "touch" the Sun, has been launched today on a seven-year long journey to unlock the mysteries of our star's fiery outer atmosphere and its effects on space weather.

A Delta-IV heavy rocket carrying the probe took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at around 07.31 GMT on Sunday morning.

Within three minutes of taking off, the rocket was 33 miles up travelling at 4,500 miles per hour, and weighed half of what it did at launch, burning fuel at a rate of 5,000lbs per second.

Parker Solar Probe will explore the corona, a region of the Sun only seen from Earth when the Moon blocks out the Sun's bright face during total solar eclipses.

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

The car-sized probe is created to give scientists a better understanding of solar wind and geomagnetic storms that risk wreaking chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.

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

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The probe is the first NASA spacecraft with a living namesake.

Thousands of spectators jammed the launch site, including 91-year-old astrophysicist Eugene Parker after whom the spacecraft is named. His 1958 paper was initially ridiculed but has come to be central to our understanding of the solar system and beyond.

The $1.5 billion (£1.2 billion) probe, which is the size of the auto, will play a vital role in our understanding of the solar system.

One of the reasons, scientists are sending the probe is the Sun's atmosphere and the weird property it exhibits, of being hotter than the surface of the sun itself.

At those speeds, the spacecraft will reach the sun by November, and scientists hope to have early data back from the probe by the end of the year.

The mission will last 6 years and 11 months, and in that time the Parker probe will orbit the sun 24 times.

"We'll also be the fastest human-made object ever, travelling around the Sun at speeds of up to 690,000km/h (430,000mph) - NY to Tokyo in under a minute!" she told BBC News.

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