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NASA’s Ticket to the Sun

Parker Solar Probe: Humanity’s First Visit to a Star

NASA has provided Bluecoat C of E Primary School with a ticket to the sun!

The Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to the ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.

In order to unlock the mysteries of the corona, but also to protect a society that is increasingly dependent on technology from the threats of space weather, NASA will send Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun.

Flying into the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, for the first time, Parker Solar Probe will employ a combination of in situ measurements and imaging to revolutionize our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind. It will also make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment that affect life and technology on Earth.

Extreme Exploration

At closest approach, Parker Solar Probe hurtles around the Sun at approximately 430,000 mph (700,000 kph). That’s fast enough to get from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in one second.

At closest approach to the Sun, the front of Parker Solar Probe’s solar shield faces temperatures approaching 2,500 F (1,377 C). The spacecraft’s payload will be near room temperature.

On the final three orbits, Parker Solar Probe flies to within 3.8 million miles of the Sun’s surface – more than seven times closer than the current record-holder for a close solar pass, the Helios 2 spacecraft, which came within 27 million miles in 1976 and more than 10 times closer than Mercury, which is about 42 million miles from the Sun.

Parker Solar Probe will perform its scientific investigations in a hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation. The spacecraft will fly close enough to the Sun to watch the solar wind speed up from subsonic to supersonic, and it will fly though the birthplace of the highest-energy solar particles.

To perform these unprecedented investigations, the spacecraft and instruments will be protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 F (1,377 C).

Launching some time between July and August 2018, the Probe will take with it a memory card containing the names of the privileged few who have secured themselves a ticket. Bluecoat C of E Primary School is one of the few! The Probe will be launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida during a possible launch window of 31st July – 19th August 2018. 

Some Bluecoat pupils have also managed to obtain a ticket along with Mrs Stocker and Mrs Hogan, so Bluecoat will be well represented in space!