Astronomy For Everyone: 2018 Solar Probe

Touching the Sun: NASA Solar Probe

NASA plans to launch its first ever solar probe in the summer of 2018. While the title of this post speaks of touching the Sun, but in no way will NASA’s solar probe be sent to the surface of the Sun; at least not yet. The first hurdle for engineers designing this new spacecraft was the environment in which it will be tasked with operating within. The Sun is a formidable foe when it comes to harsh treatment of anything that passes close by. Many a comets, asteroids, and other types of space debris have found their way into the grasp of the Sun’s gravitational fields and fallen helplessly into the raging inferno. Touching the Sun is how to look at the research, but actually reaching the surface is not what the program was developed for.

Solar Wind and How it Affects Earth

The Sun is constantly expelling particles from its surface at tremendously accelerated speeds. One of the mysteries of the Sun is how those particles get the propellant to move them so quickly. NASA hopes to discover secrets about this effect and how to combat against them from earth in the future. The particles that are most damaging are the ones that move the fastest. They can even damage the DNA of humans on Earth. It’s one of the reasons for the research and hopefully science can come up with a cause and effect for these super-fast moving particles.

The Right Stuff: Heat Shield Tested by the Sun’s Rays
NASA’s solar probe will be protected by one of the sturdiest of solar heat shield. Considering that it will be travelling so close to our solar star, it will be operating in temperatures that exceed 2,500-Deg F. The heat shield, if all goes well, will keep the craft at a cool 85-Deg F; that’s a big difference in heat transfer. The probe will rely on its protective heat shield for most of its research time period. After that, it will remain as the closest object that man has sent to the Sun. The heat shield will be tested by the biggest oven in the solar system and NASA has assured us that it is up to the task.


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