Nasa spacecraft heads to sun for closest look yet

NASA successfully launches spacecraft that will explore the sun

The Parker Solar Probe launches from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida on Sunday | Reuters

Nasa's most powerful rocket, which is carrying the satellite, was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida in the early hours of Sunday morning.

NASA has successfully launched a spacecraft destined to become the fastest man-made object ever as it gets closer to the sun than we've been before.

NASA has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to "touch the Sun".

The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system and can cause havoc with communications technology on Earth.

Instead, it will fly into the sun's atmosphere, where it will observe from a "safe distance" of approximately four million miles away from the star's surface - protected by a "cutting-edge heat shield".

"I realise that might not sound that close, but imagine the Sun and the Earth were a metre apart".

The probe is created to plunge into the Sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, during a seven-year mission.

Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).

Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

The probe will use Venus's gravity over the course of it's 93million-miles journey over seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to "touch the sun", as Nasa calls it.

Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, said: 'The sun is full of mysteries.

"We are ready. We have the flawless payload".

In this Thursday, August 9, 2018, astrophysicist Eugene Parker attends a news conference about the Parker Solar Probe named after him, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A key question that the probe seeks to answer is how solar wind is accelerated, and for the first time it will be able to look for answers at the source of solar wind itself.

Parker said last week that he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine". "Each time we fly by, we get closer and closer to the Sun".

"We'll also be the fastest human-made object ever, travelling around the Sun at speeds of up to 690,000km/h (430,000mph) - NY to Tokyo in under a minute".

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