NASA Mission to ‘Touch the Sun’ Due to Launch Next Month

Jul 23, 2018

By Meghan Bartels

NASA is preparing to launch a historic probe to “touch the sun” — which scientists hope will crack decades-long mysteries about our star — in early August.

The mission, called the Parker Solar Probe, will loop around the sun 24 times, flying within the star’s million-degree atmosphere, called the corona.

The spacecraft’s daunting flight plan isn’t just a daring lark; it’s a necessity to answer questions about the sun that have stumped scientists for decades. In some cases, their answers will affect our lives on Earth. But scientists are also taking advantage of convenient access to the sun to understand all stars by proxy.

“We need to go to the corona because we have done so much science by looking at the star,” project scientist Nicola Fox, a solar scientist at Johns Hopkins University, said on July 20 during a NASA news conference about the upcoming mission. “We’ve looked at it in every single different way you can imagine, every wavelength; we’ve traveled beyond the orbit of Mercury even. But we need to get into this action region and into the region where all of these mysteries are really occurring.”

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