Sci-tech

Nasa delays mission to Sun for 24 hours

Nasa delays mission to Sun for 24 hours

Space agency Nasa postponed the launch of a satellite set to fly into the sun's atmosphere, or corona.

The Parker Solar Probe's second launch attempt in a mission to touch the sun was successful early Sunday. Here's a look at the mission and what it seeks to achieve.

The probe won't actually land on the sun, but it will make history - getting closer than any other man-made object. With a communication lag time of 16 minutes, the spacecraft must fend for itself at the sun.

"Parker Solar Probe uses Venus to adjust its course and slow down in order to put the spacecraft on the best trajectory", said Driesman. Eugene Parker predicted the existence of solar wind 60 years ago.

The probe is armed with a high-powered heat shield that is 11.43 centimeters (4.5 inches) thick.

Nicola Fox, the Parker project scientist at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, described the solar probe as "the coolest hottest mission under the sun".

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

The probe is equipped with a 4 1/2-inch thick carbon-carbon heat shield created to withstand temperatures of about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Enter the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation (SWEAP), which will count the most abundant particles in the solar wind - electrons, protons and helium ions - and measure their velocity, density and temperature.

It will actually skim by at a distance of 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) above the Sun's surface.

If everything goes according to plan, temperatures inside the spacecraft should be a mere 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles", explained NASA.

"And last but not least, we have a white light imager that is taking images of the atmosphere right in front of the Sun". "We have not been able to answer these questions".

To put that in perspective, if the Earth and sun were at opposite ends of a football field, the Parker probe would be on the four-yard line nearest the sun during close approach.

During its historic journey, the probe will jet past Venus at speeds of 430,000 miles per hour, the equivalent of flying from NY to Tokyo in one minute.

Thousands of spectators gathered in the middle of the night to witness the launch, including the University of Chicago astrophysicist for whom the spacecraft is named.