Nasa prepares daring mission to 'touch the Sun'

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

The probe will plunge through the sun's atmosphere, called the corona, to gather data to help us understand what part of the sun is providing the energy source for solar winds, solar particles and how they accelerate to such high speeds.

NASA is close to launching a spacecraft on a voyage to the sun that will give scientists their closest-ever view of the star.

The car-sized probe, which will get within 3.9million miles of the sun's surface, is set to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday at 8.33am British time.

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, is set to use seven Venus fly-bys over almost seven years to steadily reduce its orbit around the Sun, using instruments created to image the solar wind and study electric and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles.

NASA scientists also hope to answer one ongoing mystery: why the sun's atmosphere is 300 times hotter than the surface itself.

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A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY. Ultimately, the more we can learn about the Sun, the better. If we're able to learn more about its origin and behavior, it might be possible to predict when space weather might occur.

"As we send spacecraft and astronauts further and further from home, we must understand this space environment just as early seafarers needed to understand the ocean".

The spacecraft will make use of an 8ft-long heat shield known as the Thermal Protection System (TPS), which has been made using a carbon composite coated with ceramic to cope with the extreme conditions and temperature fluctuations.

The powerful rocket is needed to propel the payload, NASA's Parker Solar Probe, to the sun.

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