“My full name, amongst millions of other ones, is heading towards the Sun right now. Probably the coolest thing I’ve done so far!”

On August 12th 2018, NASA sent a probe to study the Sun up close. Very close. 3.8 Million miles away from it to be exact. That sounds far, but it’s actually very close considering that we are 93 Million miles away from the Sun.

The probe will be studying the Sun from its own atmosphere called the Corona where it’s actually hotter than the Sun itself. Crazy.

Eugene Parker

NASA has been working on this mission for decades and has kindly dedicated it to Mr Eugene Parker, a solar astrophysicist who developed the theory of the supersonic solar winds back in 1950. Eugene Parker had a hard time at proving his theory, but it has been approved once verified by some satellite observations few years later. Basically, thanks to his theory, we’re now aware of Solar Winds and Solar Magnetic field in the outer solar system. At 91 years old, Mr Parker had the privilege to assist for his first time, the launch of the mighty Delta IV Rocket.

Eugene Parker watching the launch of the Solar Parker Probe
Eugene Parker, amazed by the power of the Delta IV Rocket.

How And Why

The Probe

Yes, we are sending something as big as a car to study the Sun. It doesn’t need to be bigger does it? On top of that… The heat shield is 4.5inch thick. I mean… Really? Yes, and it will be capable to handle the 2,500 F degrees produced by the Sun. From November onwards, it will orbit the Sun 24 times during the next 7 years. Now you’re probably thinking: The thing is going to burn…

NO. Using thrusters, it will automatically change its trajectory to constantly face the Sun to keep the other parts safe and cool. Currently, the Probe is at around 16,000 Million miles away from Earth travelling at around 45,000 mph and is about to fly by Venus to use its orbit to reach the Sun even faster. Here is a cool link for you to track it live.

Parker-Solar-Probe
Parker Solar Probe flying away from Earth.

Why is NASA doing this?

The Sun is the only star we see everyday, which keeps us warm and happy but we’ve never been able to study it up close. Now, we’re on our way. I mean, the Sun represents 99.8% of the entire solar system’s mass. It would be nice to understand it a little more wouldn’t be? This mission will help us to understand how the Sun affects life on Earth, and what impact it has on the outer space’s weather conditions. As we will gather more data, we will be able to send astronauts more safely back to the Moon or further more… like Mars.

I’m Cool

Around April, NASA tweeted a link to the public to submit their names as well as Mr Parker in order to put them in a memory stick and touch the Sun. It’s definitely not helpful at all, but it’s just really cool. And I’ve done it!

Thinking that my full name is flying in outer space right now and will be orbiting the Sun during 7 years makes me very cool. As a person. I think.

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