NASA’s Mission to the Sun

The American space agency NASA is planning a mission to the sun in order to explore the outer atmosphere of our solar system’s star.

The Parker Solar Probe and will launch in the summer of 2018. It is planned to go into orbit about 4 million miles from the sun’s surface, closer than any other man-made object in history. Astronomers expect to get information on the corona, the gases and plasma of the sun’s atmosphere.

The probe will also explore solar winds, storms and magnetic fields. These phenomena can affect communication and electric signals on Earth. In addition, scientists expect to get more data on space weather, which is important for longer future missions to Mars.

The probe, named after American solar astronomer Eugene Parker, can provide insight into the structure of our solar system and give us more information on how stars, like our sun, work.

The Parker Solar Probe  must cope with extreme  heat and radiation. The specially designed heat shield is over 10 cm thick and can withstand temperatures of 1,300 degrees Celsius.

The 7-year mission will be made up of 24 orbits around the sun. The probe will pass by Venus 7 times and use the planet’s gravity to position itself inside the sun’s outer atmosphere.

Up to now, the closest a spacecraft ever got to the sun was Helios 2 , which passed the star at a distance of 27 million miles in 1976.

 

Parker Solar Probe
The Parker Solar Probe – artist’s drawing

Words

  • affect = influence
  • astronomer = scientist who studies the stars and planets
  • atmosphere = the gases around a planet or the sun
  • cope = deal with a problem
  • data = information
  • explore = to find out more about something
  • gravity = the power or force that causes an object to be pulled towards a planet
  • heat shield = piece of metal that protects you from fire or extreme heat
  • in addition = also
  • insight = being able to understand something
  • magnetic field = the area around an object that has magnetic power
  • mission = longer trip to an unknown place
  • orbit = to move around an object in circles
  • phenomena = something that happens or exists in nature and is studied because it is difficult to understand
  • position = to move to the correct place
  • radiation = waves of energy that come from light or heat
  • solar = about the sun
  • space agency = organisation that plans missions to planets and stars
  • surface = the top layer of a planet or star
  • withstand = to be strong enough to protect something

Largest and Smallest Animals At Risk of Becoming Extinct

Researchers have found out that the size of an animal is important when it comes to extinction. Scientists have determined that the biggest and the smallest animals are more at risk of dying out than medium-sized animals.

Heavy animals are mostly endangered by hunting and poaching while the smallest creatures may die out because their living area is being polluted. Among the most endangered animals are elephants, lions and rhinos. Public awareness is large  and campaigns to save such animals have been around for a long time. It is the smallest species that get the least attention. Especially fish and frogs are in danger of dying out.

The species that are most at risk have a weight of over 1 kilogram. They are in danger of being killed because we need food, skin and other items.

According to the study, animals that are becoming extinct affect large ecosystems, like  forests, deserts and oceans.

 

The common frog - an endangered species
The common frog – an endangered species – Image by Richard Bartz

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • affect = to change a situation or a place
  • attention = to listen, look at or think carefully about something
  • campaign = actions that lead to solving a special problem
  • determine = to find out the facts about something
  • ecosystem =all the animals and plants that live in a certain area and how they live together
  • extinction = when a plant or animal stops existing
  • least = less than anything else
  • poaching = to catch or shoot wild animals illegally
  • pollute = to make something dirty and unusable
  • public awareness = most people know that a problem exists
  • researcher = person who studies a subject in order to find out something new about it.
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science
  • skin = the outer part of a person or an animal’s body
  • size = how big something is
  • species = group of animals that are similar and can have babies with each other
  • weight = how heavy something is

Mission Cassini Coming To An End

After 20 years in space NASA’s Cassini mission is coming to an end in April. The  spacecraft  , which was  launched  in 1997 to explore Saturn and its moons, is running out of  fuel  and will crash on Saturn’s surface .

Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004, after a 7-year long journey. It carried the Huygens probe , which landed on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005. In the last  decade Cassini has been exploring  the planet and its moons.  Recently , the spacecraft has  revealed that there are giant oceans under the frozen surfaces of some of Saturn’s moons. It also  discovered  the existence of  hydrogen  , one of the  building blocks  of life.

In its last task  before hitting Saturn’s surface , Cassini will pass through the space between the planet’s surface and its rings.  It will travel closer to Saturn than ever before. NASA  scientists expect Cassini to find out even more about the Saturn’s mysterious  rings than we already know.

NASA's Cassini probe in orbit around Saturn
NASA’s Cassini probe in orbit around Saturn

 

Words

  • arrive = here: to get to a planet
  • building block = an element that is needed to produce something else
  • decade = ten years
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • explore = to find out more about something that has just been discovered
  • fuel = energy that an object uses to travel
  • giant = very large
  • hydrogen =  a colourless gas; the lightest of all gases
  • journey = trip
  • launch = to start a journey
  • mission = long trip, often to a place that is not known very much
  • mysterious = strange and unusual
  • probe = a small unmanned spacecraft
  • recently = a short time ago
  • reveal = show
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • spacecraft = object that can fly through space and to other planets
  • surface = the top layer of a planet
  • task = job; something to do