NASA counts down to launch of first spacecraft to 'touch Sun'

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

This historic event will send the probe "to touch the Sun", the space agency says, which anticipates setting a new "fastest spacecraft" speed record.

As for the sun's corona, the fiery halo of shimmering light seen during a total solar eclipse, scientists hope the Parker Solar Probe can answer one of their most fundamental questions. Watch live in the player above. These disturbances can also create complications as we attempt to send astronauts and spacecraft farther away from the Earth. No matter how fast we try to shoot the probe into space, its momentum will cause it to keep orbiting the sun... At its closest approach, the spacecraft will fly less than 4 million miles (6 million kilometers) above the surface of the sun, directly through its blazing-hot atmosphere. In space terms, that's practically shaking hands.

The heat shield is made of a 4.5-inch thick carbon composite foam material between two carbon fibre face sheets.

Coronal heating is what experts call an apparent mismatch between the temperature of the Sun's photosphere (visible surface), and the much higher temperature of the corona, the Sun's atmosphere, which reaches temperatures of up to 10 million degrees Fahrenheit.

United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy rocket is providing the muscle.

No play on Day 1 of second Test due to rain
We should find out what we need to know at approximately 10.30am local time, with play scheduled to start at 11. England lead the five-match series 1-0 after their thrilling 31-run win at Edgbaston last weekend.

In all, the spacecraft will make 24 elongated laps around the Sun, closer than the orbit of Mercury, the innermost planet.

The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation here on Earth.

The tools on board will measure the expanding corona and continually flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which solar physicist Eugene Parker first described in 1958. These explosions create space weather events that can pummel Earth with high energy particles, endangering astronauts, interfering with Global Positioning System and communications satellites and, at their worst, disrupting our power grid. That will let scientists match up the data other instruments collect with a visual image of solar phenomena like flares. "We're actually making our first pass of the sun in November, getting our first data back by hopefully December", he said. Apart from Parker's photo and his research paper are more than 1 million names of space fans who submitted their named to Nasa this past spring. "The solar corona is one of the last places in the solar system where no spacecraft has visited before".

The Parker probe will get so close that the pressure from mere sunlight will be enough to flip the spacecraft around in less than a minute, Kasper said.

Stay tuned - Parker is about to take flight.

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