Chicago: NASA’s ambitious new mission to launch a probe mission directly into the 2500 degree atmosphere of the sun is set for summer 2018. Dubbed the Parker Solar Probe(PSP) will reach an orbit of four million miles(6.5 million km) from the sun, which shall be 7 times closer ever reached up to date.

The probe will measure activity at the sun’s outer surface, known as the ‘corona’. The craft will retrieve data on the sun’s atmosphere, life of stars and their weather events, that would help scientists in predicting dangerous solar flares.

NASA announced its plans at the University of Chicago’s William Eckhardt Research Centre Auditorium during a live stream event, which was broadcasted on NASA TV. The space craft is planned to launch from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida between July 31 and August 19, 2018 and is estimated to reach the sun in 2024.

The craft was originally dubbed the Solar Probe Plus – but later renamed to the Parker Solar Probe after University of Chicago scientist Eugene Parker, who pioneered solar wind science and proposed this journey in 1958.

Dr Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland said that until now, NASA did not  have the advanced materials needed to make such a close trip to the sun’s corona. She added that the corona is actually hotter than the sun’s centre, and that finding out why is a key part of the probe mission.

‘I like to think of this as the coolest, hottest mission,’ she said.

The sun is the source of the solar wind; a flow of gases that streams past Earth at speeds of more than a million miles per hour (1.6 million km per hour). Disturbances in Solar flares account for massive damage to satellites, shaking up the Earth’s magnetic field and pumping energy into the radiation belts.

The latest mission could help predict a ‘huge solar event’, NASA says.

A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences approximated that without advance warning a huge solar event could cause two trillion dollars in damage in the US alone. The crux of the mission is to predict solar wind shifts and prevent massive damage here on Earth.

Source: Daily mail