This summer, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will launch to travel closer to the Sun, deeper into the solar atmosphere, than any mission before it. If Earth was at one end of a yard-stick and the Sun on the other, Parker Solar Probe will make it to within four inches of the solar surface.

Inside that part of the solar atmosphere, a region known as the corona, Parker Solar Probe will provide unprecedented observations of what drives the wide range of particles, energy and heat that course through the region — flinging particles outward into the solar system and far past Neptune.

Inside the corona, it’s also, of course, unimaginably hot. The spacecraft will travel through material with temperatures greater than a million degrees Fahrenheit while being bombarded with intense sun light.

So, why won’t it melt?

Parker Solar Probe has been designed to withstand the extreme conditions and temperature fluctuations for the mission. The key lies in its custom heat shield and an autonomous system that helps protect the mission from the Sun’s intense light emission, but does allow the coronal material to “touch” the spacecraft.

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