Nasa spacecraft sets off on incredible quest to touch the sun itself

Parker Solar Probe

NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched this morning

The probe will be 3.9 million miles from the sun's surface, making it the closest spacecraft to the sun's surface in history.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying NASA's Parker Solar Probe launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida on August 12, 2018.

PSP is carrying four instrument suites created to study the sun's magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind.

A NASA spacecraft rocketed toward the sun Sunday on an unprecedented quest to get closer to our star than anything ever sent before.

He proposed the existence of solar wind - a steady, supersonic stream of particles blasting off the sun - 60 years ago.

"It can impact our technology, it disrupts our communications, it can knock out satellites, it creates a hazardous environment for astronauts, and it also can even impact our power grids here on Earth", says Alex Young, NASA Heliophysicist.

The £1.17billion ($1.5billion) mission will study the sun's incredibly hot outer atmosphere, called the corona, as well as the charged particles that flow off the star and into the solar system.

The Parker probe is named after USA astrophysicist Eugene Parker, who developed a pioneering theory on supersonic solar wind in 1958.

Parker will enter the Sun's atmosphere to sample conditions around our star, reaching as far as 6.16 million km from the Sun's scorching surface. But an 8-foot-wide heat shield out front - only 4.5 inches thick - should keep the probe's electronics safe at room temperature. Along the way, the spacecraft will gather data to try and solve some of the sun's great mysteries.

The Parker Solar Probe is a satellite about the size of the vehicle, and it is even set to become the fastest moving manmade object history as it fires towards the sun, breaking the record previously set by Pedro Obiang's absolute banger against Spurs last season.

Over the next seven years, there will be 24 close approaches to the sun.

"I really have to turn from biting my nails and getting it launched to thinking about all the interesting things, which I don't know yet, (that) will be made clear, I assume, over the next five or six or seven years", Parker said in a NASA interview.

He added: "It's a whole new phase and it's gonna be fascinating throughout.and we're just waiting for the data now so the experts can get busy because there's a lot of data will be coming in". Seven Venus flybys are planned over the seven-year mission to fine-tune the trajectory, setting up the close-in aim points. "We're in for some learning over the next several years".

The Parker Solar Probe rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Parker, who first detailed the possibility of solar winds all the way back in 1958, said of the launch, "Wow, here we go!"

To "touch" the sun, the spacecraft will make a swing by Venus to shed some of its sideways momentum, allowing it to take a more straight shot toward the center of the solar system.

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