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Humanity’s First Visit to a Star

Credit: John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the Sun. Credit: John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

By David Reneke

A probe will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, and astronomers have found the fastest-growing black hole known in the universe.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission will revolutionise our understanding of the Sun. It will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions.

In order to unlock the mysteries of the Sun’s atmosphere, the probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven fly-bys over a 7-year period to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. It’ll fly through the Sun’s atmosphere, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

Flying into the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, the probe will employ a combination of onboard measurements and imaging equipment to help our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind.

It will make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment that affect life and technology here, and in a bold manoeuvre the spacecraft will fly close enough to the Sun to watch the solar wind actually speed up.

At its closest approach, the Parker Solar Probe will hurtle around the Sun at approximately 700,000 km/h. That’s fast enough to get from Sydney to Canberra in about 2 seconds!

At its closest approach to the Sun, the front of the Parker Solar Probe will face blistering temperatures that reach nearly 1400°C. The spacecraft will be...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.