Tag Archives: solar

Lift-Off! NASA Launches Parker Solar Probe To 'Touch The Sun'

Lift-Off! NASA Launches Parker Solar Probe To 'Touch The Sun'We just got one step closer to "touching" the sun.



Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines

Nasa's Parker Solar Probe to launch mission to 'touch the Sun'

Nasa's Parker Solar Probe to launch mission to 'touch the Sun'Launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida aborted on Sat morning Nasa to send spacecraft into the Sun's atmosphere Parker Solar Probe is as heat-resistant as a spacecraft gets Aim is to make 24 passes through the corona during 7-year mission   9:32AM Launch aborted There is clearly still an issue – possibly with the helium regulator. The launch window has expired and Nasa will now aim to reschedule the launch within 24 hours. 9:17AM Launch is back on New launch time set for 9.28am BST (4.29am ET). 8:56AM No go on launch The launch has been delayed. It's not clear what the issue is, but there is a "launch window" of around 45 minutes. The countdown clock was halted at the T-4 minutes. 8:35AM What are the questions the mission hopes to shed light on? Magnetic fields How can the Sun's atmosphere, called the corona, reach temperatures exceeding a million degrees Celsius if the star's surface is "only" 6,000 C (10,800 degrees Fahrenheit)? "That's the big question: what's heating the solar corona?", said Thierry Dudok de Wit, an astrophysicist at France's National Centre for Scientific Research. One likely suspect is electromagnetic waves. Energy is stored in magnetic fields, the thinking goes, that are constantly stirring up the visible surface of the Sun, called the photosphere, and releasing energy into the solar atmosphere. The FIELDS instrument – which captures the scale and shape of electric and magnetic field – is designed to help scientists figure out how, when, and where that energy release occurs. Solar wind Another mystery is how solar wind – composed of ionised gases streaming outward from the Sun at 500 kilometres per second (nearly a million miles per hour) – accelerates. Finding out would help scientists forecast major space weather events that can adversely impact Earth's magnetic field and, in some cases, change the orbit of satellites and create electrical disturbances. The solar wind carries a million tons of matter into space every second. Enter the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation (SWEAP), which will count the most abundant particles in the solar wind – electrons, protons and helium ions – and measure their velocity, density and temperature. "This could help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth, triggering space weather that could disrupt GPS, radio, radar and the electric grid," said Justin Kaspar, a professor at the University of Michigan and a principle investigator for the Parker Solar Probe. This handout photo released by NASA shows the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe onboard shortly after the Mobile Service Tower was rolled back on August 10, 2018, Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Particle acceleration The Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (ISOIS) harnesses a pair of instruments to measure the full life-cycle of electrons, protons, ions: where they come from, how they accelerate, how they move out of the Sun through interplanetary space. "These are high-energy particles that travel at phenomenal speeds approaching the speed of light," said Dudok de Wit. "They reach Earth" – 150 million kilometres (more than 90 million miles) distant – "in 30 to 60 minutes." Earth's magnetic shield protects us from these potentially harmful particles, he noted. "But the day we go to Mars, we'll need to be able to predict solar eruptions of these particles, which can be deadly," he told AFP. Close up The Wide-Field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR) is the only imaging device on board. Never will a camera have come so close to the Sun. WISPR will look at the large-scale structure of matter spewing outward from the Sun as it approaches the probe, to compliment the detailed physical measurements of other instruments. NASA scientists know what they are looking for, but have allowed for the element of surprise. "We have ideas about what will be found, but the most important results may well come from observations that are completely unexpected," said Mark Wiedenbeck, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and part of the ISOIS team. 8:30AM Night sky is lit up Light from the xenons on the rocket lighting up the sky as well as we near launch #ParkerSolarProbe#SolarProbe#DeltaIVHeavypic.twitter.com/SuAdIws8Pn— Sawyer R. (@thenasaman) August 11, 2018   8:13AM Dr Parker inspected the spacecraft yesterday What an incredibly special moment to stand in front of @ULALaunch’s #DeltaIV Heavy rocket with Dr. Eugene Parker just hours before his namesake spacecraft – Parker #SolarProbe – launches into space. Something I will never forget. Thanks for the tour @ToryBruno. pic.twitter.com/fTXSeMOJdx— Thomas Zurbuchen (@Dr_ThomasZ) August 10, 2018   8:01AM The Parker Solar Probe's projected journey The Sun's gravitational pull keeps everything in our solar system. Even though the Sun has a powerful pull, it takes 55x more energy to go to the Sun than to Mars! See how our #SolarProbe will make the journey when it launches at 3:53am ET today, Aug. 11: t.co/LevTP7RR1bpic.twitter.com/Nv7xHwNDHi— NASA (@NASA) August 11, 2018   7:38AM Final preparations ahead of the launch The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with the Parker Solar Probe is illuminated ahead of launch Credit: Nasa   7:36AM How and why the Parker spacecraft is so tough SUPERHERO-WORTHY SHIELD Parker's lightweight heat shield is just 4 ½inches (11 centimeters) thick. But it can withstand 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) as well as extreme radiation, thanks to its high-tech carbon. Although the corona reaches millions of degrees, it's a wispy, tenuous, environment and so the spacecraft won't need to endure such severe temperatures. The 8-foot (2.4-meter) shield will face the sun during the close solar encounters, shading the science instruments in the back and keeping them humming at a cool 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius). As one scientist notes, this is a shield Captain America would envy. SEVEN YEARS IN HOT PURSUIT The spacecraft's path to the sun runs past Venus. It will fly by our solar system's hottest planet seven times over seven years, using the gravity of Venus to shrink its own oval orbit and draw increasingly closer to the sun. The first Venus flyby is in October, followed by the first dip into the sun's corona in November. There will be 24 orbits between Venus and the sun, with the final three putting Parker closest to the sun – just 3.8 million miles (6 million kilometers) out – in 2024 and 2025. That's a scant 4 percent of the 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) between Earth and the Sun. This handout illustration obtained July 6, 2018 courtesy of NASA/Johns Hopkins APL shows an artists conception of NASAs Parker Solar Probe, the spacecraft that will fly through the Suns corona to trace how energy and heat move through the stars atmosphere BREAKING RECORDS The records will start falling as soon as Parker takes its first run past the sun.. The current close-to-the-sun champ, NASA's former Helios 2, got within 27 million miles (43 million kilometers) in 1976. Parker will come within 15.5 million miles (25 million kilometers) in November and then start beating its own record. During its closest solar approaches, the spacecraft will hurtle through the corona at 430,000 mph (690 kph), setting a speed record. SOLAR SCIENCE Our yellow dwarf star is, in many ways, a mystery. The outreaching corona is hundreds of times hotter than the sun's actual surface, confounding scientists. In addition, physicists don't know what's driving the solar wind, the supersonic stream of charged particles constantly blasting away from the sun. By being right in the thick of it, Parker should provide some answers, shedding light not only on our star but the billions of others out there. PARKER THE MAN Sixty years ago, a young astrophysicist at the University of Chicago, Eugene Parker, proposed the existence of solar wind. Many were skeptical and told him to read up on it first "so you don't make these killer mistakes," he recalls. Vindication came with NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962. Parker is now 91 years old and at Cape Canaveral with his family to witness his first launch – a Delta IV Heavy rocket with the spacecraft bearing his name. It's the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after someone who's still alive. In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Parker noted from a publicity standpoint, "it absolutely wipes out everything else" in his career. "At my age, it gets fatiguing. But of course, I enjoy it." 7:28AM Nasa to launch mission to the Sun On Saturday morning Nasa launches a $ 1.5 billion spacecraft that aims to plunge into the Sun's sizzling atmosphere – marking humanity's first mission to explore a star. The car-sized Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to blast off on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 8.53am BST, with the weather forecast currently 70 percent favourable for takeoff, Nasa said. By coming closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history, the probe's main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around the Sun which can cause fierce radioactive storms which threaten Earth.  Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun's surface, it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid. But these solar outbursts are poorly understood. "The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth," said Justin Kasper, one of the project scientists and a professor at the University of Michigan. Why Nasa's daring mission to 'touch the sun' will be 'the next jump in knowledge' The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches thick (11.4 centimetres). The shield should enable the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the centre of our solar system, coming within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometres) of the Sun's surface. The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun's radiation here on Earth. Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit (555,537 C), the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 1,371 C. Scorching? Yes, but if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at a rather more modest 29 C. The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission. The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket payload fairing is seen with the NASA and Parker Solar Probe emblems Credit:  Bill Ingalls/NASA "The sun is full of mysteries," said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. "We are ready. We have the perfect payload. We know the questions we want to answer." The tools on board will measure the expanding corona and continually flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which solar physicist Eugene Parker first described back in 1958. Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only recently did heat shield technology advance sufficiently to protect sensitive instruments. The Parker Solar Probe after the installation of its heat shield Credit: Ed Whitman/NASA Tools on board will measure high-energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun. "We will also be listening for plasma waves that we know flow around when particles move," Dr Fox added. "And last but not least, we have a white light imager that is taking images of the atmosphere right in front of the Sun." When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from New York to Tokyo in one minute – some 430,000 miles (700,000 kilometres) per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.



Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines

Nasa probe will still be circling Sun at end of Solar System say scientists

Nasa probe will still be circling Sun at end of Solar System say scientistsNasa's new solar spacecraft is so indestructable that parts of it will be circling the Sun until the Solar System ends, eight billion years from now, scientists have said.  The US space agency launches its Parker Solar Probe on Saturday, which will travel closer to the Sun than any mission before, to unlock the secrets of fierce radioactive storms which threaten Earth.  Earth, and all the other objects in the Solar System are constantly plowing through what is known as the solar wind – a constant stream of high-energy particles, mostly protons and electrons, hurled into space by The Sun. These radioactive storms are so powerful they are able to knock out satellites, disrupt services such as communications and GPS, threaten aircraft and in even interfere with electricity supplies. The mission Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, the closest any man-made instrument has ever got to a star.  For seven years it will orbit at around 3.38 million miles from the star's surface, where temperatures reach 1,400C. The probe is relying on a 4.5 inch carbon heat shield which has taken 10 years to develop and which is so strong it will survive for billions of years even when the rest of the spacecraft has disintegrated. Speaking at a briefing ahead of the launch, Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe Programme Manager from Johns Hopkins University said: "At four million miles the Sun is very hot, so we need to bring an umbrella with us. "It’s a carbon heat shield. It took 18 months to fabricate it and a decade to develop it.  "Eventually the spacecraft will run out of propellant and will leave altitude control and parts of it will transition into the Sun. But hopefully in 10 to 20 years there is going to be this carbon disc and that will be around to the end of the Solar System." The Parker Solar Probe  Credit: Ed Whitman Johns Hopkins APL/NASA The spacecraft also holds a memory card containing the names of more than 1.1 million members of the public who were asked to write in to support the mission. London-born professor Nicky Fox, project scientist from Johns Hopkins University, said: "I think the spacecraft will break up into parts and form dust, and then those names will orbit the Sun forever." The nearest a spacecraft has previously come to the Sun was the Helios 2 mission in 1976, which flew to within 27 million miles. Once inside the corona, sensory equipment will attempt to ‘taste’ and ‘smell’ electronic particles while they are still moving slowly enough to be measured. Professor Mathew Owens, space scientist at the University of Reading, said: “It's an incredibly hostile environment in which to do science, so the spacecraft has faced enormous engineering challenges. But everything is looking positive for Saturday. “The thing we really don't understand about the Sun, and therefore stars in general, is why its atmosphere gets hotter further away from the heat source. “We've been trying to solve this mystery for more than 50 years, by taking measurements from a nice, safe distance, and it's left us in an unusual position. We've got a bunch of theories that seem to work, but don't know which ones actually explain the Sun.” Currently, solar activity is monitored by a network of satellites, but scientists still have a poo understanding of how radiation builds up in the star’s outer atmosphere and then accelerates towards Earth. A better understanding of “space weather” is also considered crucial for protecting astronauts and their equipment for any future endeavours to colonise the Moon or Mars. The Parker Solar Probe will go closer to a star than any mission has ever gone  Credit: Nasa The Parker Solar Probe, which weights 1,400lbs, will travel faster than any craft ever before at 430,000 mph, and during its a seven-year mission will make 24 orbits of the Sun. The spacecraft will carry instruments to measure bulk plasma, described as the 'bread and butter' of solar waves, as well as a full package of magnetic measuring equipment. Eugene Parker, who the mission is named after  Credit: AFP It will also carry a white light imager, dubbed 'Whisper' which can photograph solar waves. “Where does the solar wind come from? What causes flares and coronal mass ejections? We still don’t understand these processes,” said Justin Kasper, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan, mission principal investigator on the Parker Solar Probe. “The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth.” The mission was named after Eugene Parker, the solar astrophysicist who first discovered the solar wind, and has been in the works for more than half a century. The memory card on board also contains a copy of his first scientific paper outlining his work. It was conceived before a space program, or even Nasa, existed.



Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines

Macron pledges 700 million euros for new solar projects

Macron pledges 700 million euros for new solar projectsFrench President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday pledged hundreds of millions of dollars for solar projects in developing countries, as world leaders met in India to promote greater investment in renewable energy. Macron, who in December warned that the global shift to a green energy future was too slow, said France would extend an extra 700 million euros ($ 861.5 million) through loans and donations by 2022 for solar projects in emerging economies. France had already committed $ 300 million euros to the initiative when it co-founded with India a global alliance in 2015 to unlock new cash for solar projects in sunny yet poor nations.



Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines

France to commit 700 million euros to International Solar Alliance

France to commit 700 million euros to International Solar AllianceBy Sudarshan Varadhan NEW DELHI (Reuters) – France will commit 700 million euros to the International Solar Alliance (ISA), President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday at the founding conference of the organization, reiterating the European country’s commitment to the alliance and clean energy. ISA is an inter-governmental organization that aims to mobilize $ 1 trillion in funds for future solar generation, storage and technology across the world. The treaty-based organization, launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, aims to promote solar energy in 121 countries.



Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines

Google discovers new planet which proves Solar System is not unique 

Google discovers new planet which proves Solar System is not unique Google has previously discovered lost tribes, missing ships and even an forgotten forest. But now it has also found two entire planets. The technology giant used one its algorithms to sift through thousands of signals sent back to Earth by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope. One of the new planets was found hiding in the Kepler-90 star system, which is around 2,200 light years away from Earth. The discovery is important because it takes the number of planets in the star system up to eight, the same as our own Solar System. It is the first time that any system has been found to have as many planets ours. Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and Nasa Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow at The University of Texas, Austin, said:  "The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer. The Kepler-90 star system has eight planets, like our own  Credit: Nasa “For the first time we know for sure the Solar System is not the sole record holder for the number of planets. “Maybe there are systems out here with so many planets they make ours sound ordinary. It’s very possible that Kepler-90 has even more planets we might not even know about. “There is a lot of unexplored real estate in Kepler-90 system and it would almost be surprising if there were not more planets in the system.” The new planet Kepler-90i is about 30 per cent larger than Earth and very hot Credit: Nasa  The planet Kepler-90i, is a small rocky planet, which orbits so close to its star that the surface temperature is a ‘scorchingly hot’ 800F (426C). It orbits its own sun once every 14 days. The Google team applied a neural network to scan weak signals discovered by the Kepler exoplanet-hunting telescope which had been missed by humans. Kepler has already discovered more than 2,500 exoplanets and 1,000 more which are suspected. The telescope spent four years scanning 150,000 stars looking for dips in their brightness which might suggest an orbiting planet was passing in front. The Kepler space telescope  Credit: Nasa Although the observation mission ended in 2013, the spacecraft recorded so much data during its four year mission that scientists expect will be crunching the data for many years to come. Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in Mountain View, California, who made the discovery, said the algorithm was so simple that it only took two hours to train to spot exoplanets. Test of the neural network correctly identified true planets and false positives 96 percent of the time. They have promised to release all of the code so that amateurs can train computers to hunt for their own exoplanets. “Machine learning will become increasingly important for keeping pace with all this data and will help us make more discoveries than ever before,” said Mr Shallue. “This is really exciting discovery and a successful proof of concept in using neural networks to find planets even in challenging situations where signals are very weak. “We plan to search all 150,000 stars, we hope using our technique we will be able to find lots of planets including planets like Earth.” Previously Trappist-1 was found to have the most planets outside of our own Solar System Credit: Nasa  Before the new discovery, Trappist-1 was the star system with the most planets, with seven. Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said: “When we launched Kepler in 2009 we didn’t know if planets were common or rare. We now know every star in the night sky has a family of planets orbiting it. “The archive Kepler data is a treasure trove of information which will bring many more discoveries. Today’s announcement is one such discovery. “It shows what happens when new scientific methods are applied to archival data.” Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist at Nasa’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, added: "These results demonstrate the enduring value of Kepler’s mission. “New ways of looking at the data – such as this early-stage research to apply machine learning algorithms – promises to continue to yield significant advances in our understanding of planetary systems around other stars. I’m sure there are more firsts in the data waiting for people to find them.”  



Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines

A Mysterious Object Flying Past the Sun Is Our First Confirmed Visitor From Another Solar System

A Mysterious Object Flying Past the Sun Is Our First Confirmed Visitor From Another Solar SystemIt's been named ‘'Oumuamua’ after a Hawaiian term meaning scout or messenger



Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines

Could Solar Technology be the Answer to Puerto Rico’s Problems?

Could Solar Technology be the Answer to Puerto Rico’s Problems?While more than 60 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power, the lights are on at a Children’s Hospital in San Juan thanks to more than 800 brand new solar panels.



Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines

Our Solar System Might Have Just Gotten Its First Interstellar Visitor

Our Solar System Might Have Just Gotten Its First Interstellar VisitorWe've waited so long.



Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines

Solar eclipse 2017: Aerial photos show staggering number of people gathering in Oregon to see event

Solar eclipse 2017: Aerial photos show staggering number of people gathering in Oregon to see eventThousands of people have descended on Oregon to witness the total solar eclipse, with the state first to witness the “line of totality” where the sun appears completely covered by the moon. Oregon State Police have been documenting the increase in traffic across Oregon since last week, showing aerial pictures of a 15-mile stretch of backed up traffic on Thursday as people travelled to the state to be ready for the eclipse. On Sunday aerial shots from Prineville Police Department showed the staggering size of the crowds gathered at the Symbiosis Gathering, also called the Oregon Eclipse Festival 2017, taking place on the Big Summit Prairie, and of the Oregon Star party.



Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines