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  #1  
Old 06-29-2008, 08:59 PM
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Smile Flying into the sun

Solar Probe + official site

Quote:
Originally Posted by NASA plans to visit the sun
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For more than 400 years, astronomers have studied the sun from afar. Now NASA has decided to go there.

"We are going to visit a living, breathing star for the first time," says program scientist Lika Guhathakurta of NASA Headquarters. "This is an unexplored region of the solar system and the possibilities for discovery are off the charts."

The name of the mission is Solar Probe+ (pronounced "Solar Probe plus"). It's a heat-resistant spacecraft designed to plunge deep into the sun's atmosphere where it can sample solar wind and magnetism first hand. Launch could happen as early as 2015. By the time the mission ends 7 years later, planners believe Solar Probe+ will solve two great mysteries of astrophysics and make many new discoveries along the way.


An artist's concept of Solar Probe Plus.
The probe is still in its early design phase, called "pre-phase A" at NASA headquarters, says Guhathakurta. "We have a lot of work to do, but it's very exciting."

Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Lab (APL) will design and build the spacecraft for NASA. APL already has experience sending probes toward the sun. APL's MESSENGER spacecraft completed its first flyby of the planet Mercury in January 2008 and many of the same heat-resistant technologies will fortify Solar Probe+. (Note: The mission is called Solar Probe plus because it builds on an earlier 2005 APL design called Solar Probe.)

At closest approach, Solar Probe+ will be 7 million km or 9 solar radii from the sun. There, the spacecraft's carbon-composite heat shield must withstand temperatures greater than 1400º C and survive blasts of radiation at levels not experienced by any previous spacecraft. Naturally, the probe is solar powered; it will get its electricity from liquid-cooled solar panels that can retract behind the heat-shield when sunlight becomes too intense. From these near distances, the Sun will appear 23 times wider than it does in the skies of Earth.


Full-resolution picture
A simulated view of the Sun illustrating the trajectory of Solar Probe+ during its multiple near-Sun passes.
The two mysteries prompting this mission are the high temperature of the sun's corona and the puzzling acceleration of the solar wind:

Mystery #1—the corona: If you stuck a thermometer in the surface of the sun, it would read about 6000º C. Intuition says the temperature should drop as you back away; instead, it rises. The sun's outer atmosphere, the corona, registers more than a million degrees Celsius, hundreds of times hotter than the star below. This high temperature remains a mystery more than 60 years after it was first measured.

Mystery #2—the solar wind: The sun spews a hot, million mph wind of charged particles throughout the solar system. Planets, comets, asteroids—they all feel it. Curiously, there is no organized wind close to the sun's surface, yet out among the planets there blows a veritable gale. Somewhere in between, some unknown agent gives the solar wind its great velocity. The question is, what?

"To solve these mysteries, Solar Probe+ will actually enter the corona," says Guhathakurta. "That's where the action is."

The payload consists mainly of instruments designed to sense the environment right around the spacecraft—e.g., a magnetometer, a plasma wave sensor, a dust detector, electron and ion analyzers and so on. "In-situ measurements will tell us what we need to know to unravel the physics of coronal heating and solar wind acceleration," she says.


The re-designed Solar Probe+ spacecraft.
Solar Probe+'s lone remote sensing instrument is the Hemispheric Imager. The "HI" for short is a telescope that will make 3D images of the sun's corona similar to medical CAT scans. The technique, called coronal tomography, is a fundamentally new approach to solar imaging and is only possible because the photography is performed from a moving platform close to the sun, flying through coronal clouds and streamers and imaging them as it flies by and through them.

With a likely launch in May 2015, Solar Probe+ will begin its prime mission near the end of Solar Cycle 24 and finish near the predicted maximum of Solar Cycle 25 in 2022. This would allow the spacecraft to sample the corona and solar wind at many different phases of the solar cycle. It also guarantees that Solar Probe+ will experience a good number of solar storms near the end of its mission. While perilous, this is according to plan: Researchers suspect that many of the most dangerous particles produced by solar storms are energized in the corona—just where Solar Probe+ will be. Solar Probe+ may be able to observe the process in action and show researchers how to forecast Solar Energetic Particle (SEP) events that threaten the health and safety of astronauts.

Solar Probe+'s repeated plunges into the corona will be accomplished by means of Venus flybys. The spacecraft will swing by Venus seven times in six years to bend the probe’s trajectory deeper and deeper into the sun’s atmosphere. Bonus: Although Venus is not a primary target of the mission, astronomers may learn new things about the planet when the heavily-instrumented probe swings by.

"Solar Probe+ is an extraordinary mission of exploration, discovery and deep understanding," says Guhathakurta. "We can't wait to get started."
Quote:
Originally Posted by NASA probe to fly into the sun
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Scientists have studied the sun for decades, sending probes to unravel its 11-year cycles, watching its outbursts and measuring how its winds shape the outer edges of the solar system.

But we've never actually dared a house call: The technology simply wasn't available -- until now.

NASA is starting work on a mission called Solar Probe Plus that will plunge deeply into the sun's atmosphere in an attempt to answer two long-standing questions: why the sun's outer atmosphere, or corona, is about 2 million degrees Fahrenheit hotter than its surface, and why the solar wind -- streams of electrically charged particles that permeate the solar system -- seems to have no organizing force.

Finding the answers will require a spacecraft that can weather temperatures exceeding 2,550 degrees Fahrenheit and radiation levels higher than any other probe has ever faced.

"Solar Probe Plus will actually enter the corona -- that's where the action is," said NASA program scientist Lika Guhathakurta.


Full-resolution picture
NASA plans to launch Solar Probe Plus, pictured in this artist's illustration, in May 2015, for a seven-year mission that will have the probe circling Venus seven times, each time going deeper and deeper into the sun's atmosphere.
At closest approach, the spacecraft would be about 4.3 million miles from the sun -- eight times closer than previous probes -- a vantage point that makes the star appear 23 times wider than it does from Earth. It will be powered by the sun, of course, with liquid-cooled panels that can duck behind a heat shield when the sunlight becomes too intense.

Scientists hope to time the mission so that it launches in 2015, which would be in the waning years of the present solar cycle, and last through the peak of Solar Cycle 25 so that it can sample the sun's corona and winds during different phases.

The spacecraft would maneuver by flying around Venus seven times in six years to slingshot itself by the planet's gravity deeper and deeper into the sun's atmosphere.

For its finale, Solar Probe Plus should be in position to witness how the sun energizes the most dangerous particles produced in solar storms just at the peak of the sun's stormy season.

Scientists hope to use the information to hone predictions of solar flares and other space weather, which can affect the communications and positioning of satellites around Earth as well as threaten the health of astronauts living outside the bubble of the planet's protective atmosphere.

Solar Probe Plus will have a magnetometer, plasma wave sensor, dust detector, and electron and ion analyzers to measure the environment right around the spacecraft. It will also be equipped with a telescope to make three-dimensional images of the corona.

"We have a lot of work to do, but it's very exciting," Guhathakurta said.

With a price tag of $740 million, Solar Probe Plus is being designed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.
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  #2  
Old 07-05-2008, 09:01 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

That's stupid... the probe will be melted even if it is heat resistant.
  #3  
Old 07-05-2008, 09:24 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadow Lucario8 View Post
That's stupid... the probe will be melted even if it is heat resistant.
Frankly, they've done seemingly stupid things before that have worked out, but I'm not very partial to this idea.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PokemonKnowItAllVanessa
Ooooh.... That sucks. How many restrooms you got? Or do you only got one and have to sit and wait for all of your siblings to get out of the bathroom in the morning?
...This is a very good question, as I have many siblings.
  #4  
Old 07-05-2008, 09:26 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Every year, on his birthday, Chuck Norris selects one lucky child to be thrown in the sun. Too slow NASA.
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  #5  
Old 07-05-2008, 09:44 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Quote:
Originally Posted by GLaDOS View Post
Every year, on his birthday, Chuck Norris selects one lucky child to be thrown in the sun. Too slow NASA.
Lol, maybe that would be a good way to explore the sun... XD
  #6  
Old 07-05-2008, 09:50 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadow Lucario8 View Post
Lol, maybe that would be a good way to explore the sun... XD
I volunteer... SL8 to be thrown into the sun on Chuck Norris's next birthday. ^^
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PokemonKnowItAllVanessa
Ooooh.... That sucks. How many restrooms you got? Or do you only got one and have to sit and wait for all of your siblings to get out of the bathroom in the morning?
...This is a very good question, as I have many siblings.
  #7  
Old 07-05-2008, 10:10 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sadistic Blaziken View Post


I volunteer... SL8 to be thrown into the sun on Chuck Norris's next birthday. ^^
Why not Aaron?
I wonder if they'll actually make to the sun?
  #8  
Old 07-05-2008, 10:11 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadow Lucario8 View Post
Why not Aaron?
I wonder if they'll actually make to the sun?
Because Aaron's not human, nor is he a child. Case closed. ^^
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PokemonKnowItAllVanessa
Ooooh.... That sucks. How many restrooms you got? Or do you only got one and have to sit and wait for all of your siblings to get out of the bathroom in the morning?
...This is a very good question, as I have many siblings.
  #9  
Old 07-05-2008, 10:13 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sadistic Blaziken View Post


Because Aaron's not human, nor is he a child. Case closed. ^^
I wonder if they'll find sun peoplez?!
  #10  
Old 07-05-2008, 10:15 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Quote:
Originally Posted by shadow lucario8 View Post
i wonder if they'll find sun peoplez?!
I'm laughing hysterically!!! XDDD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PokemonKnowItAllVanessa
Ooooh.... That sucks. How many restrooms you got? Or do you only got one and have to sit and wait for all of your siblings to get out of the bathroom in the morning?
...This is a very good question, as I have many siblings.
  #11  
Old 07-05-2008, 10:18 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sadistic Blaziken View Post


I'm laughing hysterically!!! XDDD
You laugh too much.

Or maybe, they'll find... absolutely nothing! Or, like said before, melted.
  #12  
Old 07-05-2008, 10:19 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadow Lucario8 View Post
You laugh too much.

Or maybe, they'll find... absolutely nothing! Or, like said before, melted.
Stop making me laugh, damn it! XDDD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PokemonKnowItAllVanessa
Ooooh.... That sucks. How many restrooms you got? Or do you only got one and have to sit and wait for all of your siblings to get out of the bathroom in the morning?
...This is a very good question, as I have many siblings.
  #13  
Old 07-05-2008, 10:20 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Just toss Superman in. He would just get stronger. xD
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  #14  
Old 07-05-2008, 10:21 AM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sadistic Blaziken View Post


Stop making me laugh, damn it! XDDD
How can I if you laugh at everything?! I'm just trying to stay on topic....

Thay should send humans to the sun and see what happens!
  #15  
Old 07-05-2008, 11:46 PM
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Default Re: Flying into the sun

Humans aren't technologically advanced enough to build something that can resist 5 billion degrees celsius. This experiment was finished before it even started.

Last edited by Yggdrasill; 07-05-2008 at 11:55 PM.
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