Launch of the probe Delta IV Heavy that will get closer to the Sun deferred for 24 hours

A failure meant that the probe launch was postponed until Sunday.

NASA has postponed the launch of Parker Solar Probe , the probe that will travel close to the Sun’s crown, the outermost layer of the solar atmosphere. The start of the mission was set for Saturday at Cape Canaveral in the US state of Florida, but a technical problem delayed him for 24 hours.

The Delta-IV Heavy rocket, on board of which the spacecraft will enter the space, was already on the launch pad when the countdown stopped, just one minute and 55 from the takeoff. It would have been a gas pressure helium failure that automatically stopped the countdown, according to the Associated Press.

NASA said in a short statement on the site that the launch was postponed “due to a violation of the time limit for launch, resulting in a wait time” until Sunday. That is, as the failure of the helium pressure system was not resolved within the 65-minute window that NASA scientists had to launch during Saturday’s launch, the launch had to be postponed until next Sunday. This was the second glitch of the day, writes the British Guardian .

The Parker Solar Probe mission will be a pioneer in many ways: it will be one of the first devices to get so close to the Sun and one of the fastest Man-made objects in history. This probe is expected to reach 690,000 kilometers per hour: “From New York to Tokyo in less than a minute,” Nicola Fox, a British scientist associated with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, told the BBC .

If the launch happens on Sunday, scientists estimate that the first encounter with the Sun will happen in 12 weeks. The probe will take six weeks to reach Venus and another six weeks to reach the Sun. 

Taking advantage of the gravity of the planet Venus, the second closest to the Sun, the probe will get close enough to the Sun to, according to NASA, capture the variation of solar wind velocity (emission of energetic particles from the crown, and protons) and see the cradle of solar energy particles.

Scientists seek to see how energy and heat circulate through the solar corona (made up of plasma, ionized gas formed at high temperatures) and explore what accelerates the “solar wind” and energy particles. They also hope to be able to see why the sun’s crown is so much warmer than the center of the star.

In addition, the probe has another important mission. The BBC is reporting that the Sun is constantly “bombarding” the Earth: a phenomenon known as the “solar wind”, responsible for visible boreal auroras of the poles, but also (during the most violent explosions), disturbances in the magnetic field of the Earth, which can cause communications failures and problems in satellites. Scientists are looking to predict these “blasts,” and the Parker spacecraft can help them with that.

For seven years, the Parker probe will complete 24 turns on the star, to study the crown and try to see how energy and heat circulate through the solar corona (made up of plasma, ionized gas formed at high temperatures). The spacecraft will “navigate” the Sun’s atmosphere and, according to NASA, will approach the surface of the star-king like never before a probe did, being almost seven million kilometers, which will allow to obtain the closest observations of a star.

At the closest approach to the sun, the probe’s heat shield, made of carbon, will face temperatures near 1377 degrees Celsius. On the surface, the temperature of the Sun reaches 5500 degrees. In the crown, the outermost part of its atmosphere, visible as a ring during eclipses, thermometers reach two million degrees Celsius.

The probe is named after the American astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 91, who presented in the decade of the 1960s, of 50, a series of concepts to explain how stars, including the Sun, release energy. He called the “solar wind” to the solar energy cascade and described a whole “complex system” of plasmas, magnetic fields and energetic particles associated with the concept of solar wind. Despite being ridiculed in the 1950s, the scientific community has come to believe it, and now Eugene Parker is one of the few living scientists to have a probe of his name. 

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