TUCSON, Ariz. - Days like Monday have been a real reminder---in Arizona we know about the sun but we don't know it the way scientists want to know it.
Now University of Arizona scientists are part of the team sending a spacecraft that will fly closer to the sun than we've ever dared before.
You think it's hot here? Some UA scientists are involved in a project that will go so close to the sun the probe will actually touch it.
NASA is sending the
Parker Solar Probe
close to the sun as we dare.
It will come within four million miles of the surface, that may seem far but it's close enough to fly through the corona, the sun's atmosphere, and endure 2500 degrees Fahrenheit---hotter than molten lava.
Normally you assume when you move closer to something that's hot, the hotter it's going to be. But with the sun's corona, the atmosphere it actually gets hotter as you move away from the sun's surface and that's one of the mysteries they hope the probe will clear up.
A really good heat shield, and software to keep the shield at just the right angle should help the probe survive to answer some of the questions Dr. Joe Giacalone with UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is working to answer.
He says, "I study energetic particles. How does the sun accelerate particles? And I knew very early on in my career that we need to get close to the sun to answer that question. So pretty much my whole career I've been waiting for a mission this but for about the last eight years I've been heavily involved with this mission."
Kristopher Klein is the other UA professor participating in the Parker Solar Mission.
The mission should to help us understand the high speed particles of the solar wind pushing away from the sun with enough force to create shockwaves in space.
And it should help us learn more about solar flares, gushers of material that blast electromagnetic energy strong enough to damage spacecraft and disrupt electronics on Earth.
Dr. Giacalone says, "During solar maximum, it can cost up to a trillion dollars in collateral damage to loss of satellites, communication failures and the like, all of this related to these effects."
The Parker Solar Probe is set to start it's dangerous journey early next month.