The US space agency NASA on July 20, 2018, announced to launch the Parker Solar Probe, a robotic car-size spacecraft, to study the Sun and reveal multiple mysteries behind the star. The spacecraft will be launched in August 2018 on the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy from Cape Canaveral in Florida. This planned seven-year mission will fly into the Sun’s corona within 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) from the solar surface, seven times closer than any other spacecraft.
The spacecraft has been designed to endure wicked heat while zooming through the solar corona to study the outermost part of the stellar atmosphere that gives rise to the solar wind. Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star Program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. Parker Solar Probe will fly down within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. It will provide new data on solar activity and will help scientists in forecasting major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.
Parker Solar Probe will explore the corona, a region of the Sun only seen from Earth when the Moon blocks out the Sun’s bright face during total solar eclipses. The spacecraft is also expected to reveal the mechanisms at work behind the acceleration of solar energetic particles, which can reach speeds more than half as fast as the speed of light as they rocket away from the Sun. The corona holds the answers of scientists’ outstanding questions about the Sun’s activity and processes. Scientists hope to learn the secret of the corona’s enormously high temperatures.