The US space agency NASA has launched a space probe to get closer to the sun than any other spacecraft before it . The mission to the sun is named after Eugene Parker, a scientist who discovered solar winds in 1958.
The mission’s aim is to fly through the corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere, and find out more about how it’s made up and why it is many times hotter than the sun’s surface.
The spacecraft should also help scientists better understand solar winds. These streams of charged particles can reach the earth’s magnetic field and cause the disruptions of communications , GPS systems and may also interfere with satellite navigation.
The Parker probe will get to within 6 million km of the sun’s surface, much closer than Helios-2, which traveled to within 43 million kilometers of the sun in 1976. It is planned to make 24 orbits around the sun within the next 7 years. Reaching almost 700,000 km an hour, the probe will also be the fastest object ever to travel around the sun.
The solar mission will first orbit around Venus and use its gravity to propel it into an orbit around the sun. It will then spend a few days orbiting the sun before returning back to Venus to prepare for the next fly-by.
NASA has faced many challenges before the Parker probe could start. It had to produce a light spacecraft that could travel at high speeds and still resist temperatures of over 1300° Celsius.
- aim = purpose, something that you hope to do
- challenge = a difficult job
- charged particle = tiny object that carries electricity with it
- corona = the shining circle of light you see around the sun when the moon passes in front of it
- discover = find out something that you didn’t know about before
- disruption = to stop something from working the way it should
- face = to put you in a difficult situation
- fly-by = to fly past the sun or another planet
- GPS = Global Positioning System = system that uses radio signals from satellites to show your exact position on earth
- gravity = the power that pulls a planet to another one
- interfere = here: cause something not to work the way it should
- launch = start into space
- magnetic field = an area around the earth that has magnetic power
- mission = trip to a place somewhere in space
- orbit = to move around
- probe =object that is sent into space without any people on board
- propel = push
- resist = here: not to be damaged
- scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
- solar = about the sun
- space agency = government organisation that controls space travel
- spacecraft = object that can travel in space
- stream = line
- surface = the top layer of an object