Gadget in extremis: Parker Solar Probe guns for the sun


Gadget in extremis: Parker Solar Probe guns for the sun

Wasn’t it Superman that was faster than a flying bullet? Well, Nasa’s Parker Solar Probe – which launched on Sunday – is fifteen times faster, and is described as fastest-moving object made by humanity, reaching speeds up to 430,000 miles per hour.

Zooming through space in a highly elliptical orbit, Nasa is planning for it to visit the corona of our star, potentially learning why it is 300 times hotter than the surface of the Sun itself, what drives the supersonic solar wind and what accelerates solar energetic particles…

The idea is that findings will help improve forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites, disrupt radio communications and even overwhelm power grids.

The challenges faced by the probe include shielding the probe from heat of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, while some instruments have to be exposed beyond the shield.

And then there’s the electronic wiring to consider. To avoid melt from exposure to heat radiation at such close proximity to the Sun, Nasa has grown sapphire crystal tubes to suspend the wiring, and made the wires from niobium….

“We’ll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before — within the corona of a star,” said project scientist Nicky Fox of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. “With each orbit, we’ll be seeing new regions of the Sun’s atmosphere and learning things about stellar mechanics that we’ve wanted to explore for decades.”