Space

The first mission to the Sun was named after the discoverer of the solar wind

Parker Solar Probe in the artist’s view
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

The interplanetary station, which is to approach the Sun at a record-breaking distance, received a new name – Parker Solar Probe in honor of the astronomer Eugene Parker, author of the first studies of the solar wind. This is the first time that NASA named the device after the man in his lifetime. The launch window will open on July 31, 2018 for 20 days. It is expected that the device will approach the photosphere of the Sun to a distance of 6.2 million kilometers – seven times closer than any other of the vehicles of mankind. The agency reported this at a press conference broadcast online.

The solar probe Parker (formerly Solar Probe Plus) has been developed since 2008. The device will have to withstand the radiation of a star 580 times more intense than in the vicinity of the Earth’s orbit. Its main objectives are to study the solar corona and solar wind, and to collect statistical data. In particular, the probe will help solve the problem of anomalous reheating of the corona. The temperature of the outer regions of the photosphere is about four thousand degrees Celsius. The chromosphere from internal to external areas warms up to 20 thousand degrees, and the corona temperature reaches already one million degrees. The mechanism of this warm-up is still not fully understood. 

At a press conference, NASA announced the renaming of the device – now the probe bears the name of 89-year-old American astronomer Eugene Parker. In 1958, Parker published an article that predicted the presence of the solar wind – the flow of high-energy charged particles continuously emitted by the Sun. Subsequently, his predictions were confirmed. In addition, the physicist made a number of assumptions about the dynamics of solar plasma and the nature of the anomalous heating of the corona. 

“This solar probe will go to an unexplored region of space,” says Parker. “Impressive that we will finally be able to look at her.” I would like to get the results of more detailed measurements of what is happening in the solar wind. I’m sure there will be surprises for us. “

The mission will last seven years – the device will orbit beyond the orbit to approach the Sun. The first perihelion will occur on November 1, 2018, at a distance of 35 solar radii (24 million kilometers). Then, after a series of seven gravitational maneuvers near Venus, the device will approach the Sun to a distance of ten solar radii – this will happen on December 19, 2024. This is seven times closer than the perihelion of Mercury. 

At the moment, the Sun is watching more than ten spacecraft and a large number of ground-based observatories. Recently, we reported on the first survey of a star conducted by the largest terrestrial radio telescope – ALMA. Practically continuously for the luminary observes the laboratory of solar motion SDO. Here  you can see a timeline showing the year from the life of the Sun, photographed in the ultraviolet range.

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