Naming a spacecraft for the very first time after a living individual, NASA renamed its Solar Probe Plus spacecraft after astrophysicist Eugene Parker. In humanity's first ever mission to a star, NASA is all set to launch the solar probe in 2018.
Into the Sun's atmosphere
NASA's solar probe is all set to fly directly into the sun's atmosphere. The mission, Solar Probe Plus, is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2018. Placed in orbit within four million miles of the sun's surface, and facing heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history, the spacecraft will explore the sun's outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work. The resulting data will improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.
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In the name of Astrophysicist Eugene Parker
On Wednesday NASA announced that the spacecraft would be renamed Astrophysicist Eugene Parker. In 1958, Parker published an article in the Astrophysical Journal called "Dynamics of the interplanetary gas and magnetic fields." Parker believed there was high-speed matter and magnetism constantly escaping the sun, and that it affected the planets and space throughout our solar system. The announcement was made at a ceremony at the University of Chicago, where Parker serves as the S Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
In his article "Dynamics of the interplanetary gas and magnetic fields," Parker referred to a phenomenon, now known as the solar wind. It has been proven to exist repeatedly through direct observation. Parker's work forms the basis for much of the understanding about how stars interact with the worlds that orbit them.
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Probing the unexplored space
Eugene Parker has said that the solar probe is going to a region of space that has never been explored before. "It is very exciting that we will finally get a look. One would like to have some more detailed measurements of what is going on in the solar wind. I am sure that there will be some surprises. There always are," he added.
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Parker Solar Probe hopes to answer puzzling questions
Parker Solar Probe, scientists hope, is going to answer questions about solar physics that they have puzzled over for more than 60 years. "It is a spacecraft loaded with technological breakthroughs that will solve many of the largest mysteries about our star, including finding out why the sun's corona is so much hotter than its surface. And we're very proud to be able to carry Gene's name with us on this amazing voyage of discovery," said Parker Solar Probe Project Scientist Nicola Fox,
Photo credit: (www.nasa.gov) JHU/APL
About the solar probe
Parker Solar Probe is on track for launch during a 20-day window that opens on July 31, 2018. The mission is part of NASA's 'Living With a Star' program to explore aspects of the sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society.
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