Nasa's Parker probe sets off for moment in the sun

Artist’s concept of the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft approaching the sun. Pic Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Of all matter in the Solar System, about 99.8 percent of it is all concentrated at the Sun.

Nasa is set to launch a spacecraft on a scorching journey towards the sun, with an aim to offer the closest-ever glimpse of the star at the centre of the solar system. In the nose-cone of one of the world's biggest rockets, Nasa's Parker solar probe will launch from Florida early tomorrow on a voyage so formidable that the technology to bring it to fruition did not exist until recently.

As the probe orbits the sun, it will experience extreme radiation with temperatures expected to reach 1,377C (2,510F), which is close to the melting point of steel.

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As NASA explains, the probe's first challenge will be to cancel out the speed at which the Earth is moving in relation to the Sun. While probe will not actually reach the surface of the star, it will sweep by its outer atmosphere and collect precious data. One reason is that the Earth is moving 67,000 miles per hour nearly entirely sideways relative to the sun.

NASA says it's ready for a historic trip to the sun this weekend. It takes 55 times more energy to reach the sun than it does to reach Mars according to NASA.

Image: The spacecraft will use seven Venus flybys to get nearer the sun.

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All these gravity assists over at Venus should draw Parker's orbit closer and closer to the Sun.

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, is set to use seven Venus fly-bys over almost seven years to steadily reduce its orbit around the Sun, using instruments created to image the solar wind and study electric and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles. The probe is expected to break the speed record for any human-made vehicle.

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