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Though the side facing the Sun will reach 2500F, the probe itself will be cooler at 85F, says NASA.

A NASA probe is about to launch on a mission to the sun in the name of protecting the Earth.

The U.S. got a glimpse of the sun's glowing, spiky crown, or corona, during last August's coast-to-coast total solar eclipse.

Parker's 2.4 metre heat shield is just 11 centimetres thick.

Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only in recent years did the heat shield technology advance enough to be capable of protecting sensitive instruments, according to Fox.

NASA's plans for the probe include multiple orbits of the sun, repeatedly slingshotting itself around the star and gathering vital science data each time it makes its approach. As one scientist notes, this is a shield Captain America would envy.

Parker will get almost seven times closer to the sun than previous spacecraft.

The probe will hurtle through the sizzling solar atmosphere and come within just 6 million km from the solar surface, seven times closer than any other spacecraft.

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It's a fast-paced mission, with the first Venus encounter occurring less than two months after liftoff, in early October, and the first brush with the sun in November.

The probe is expected to take flight atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket at 3:33 a.m. ET on Saturday, ironically launching to the sun in the dead of night from Cape Canaveral Florida. Helios 2 got within 43 million kilometres of the sun in 1976.

The records will start falling as soon as Parker takes its first run past the sun.

With a carbon heat shield, the probe will travel to within six-point-one million kilometers of the sun's surface.

The spacecraft will hit 690,000 kph in the corona at closest approach.

Scientists expect the $1.5 billion mission to shed light not only on our own dynamic sun, but the billions of other yellow dwarf stars - and other types of stars - out there in the Milky Way and beyond.

Its mission is to help scientists unlock the mysteries of the sun's atmosphere and answer questions like why its corona, the outermost layer of the solar atmosphere, is hotter than its surface. In addition, physicists don't know what's driving the solar wind, the supersonic stream of charged particles constantly blasting away from the sun.


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