Nasa spacecraft heads to sun for closest look yet

The mission costs £1.17billion

This will be within 6 million kilometres of the sun's surface, closer than any other spacecraft has been before.

"It was just a matter of sitting out the deniers for four years until the Venus Mariner 2 spacecraft showed that, by golly, there was a solar wind", Parker said earlier this week.

The mission, that costs about $ 1.5 bn has been over five decades in the making, and is unique for bringing a space probe closer to the sun than any man made object.

The $1.5 billion craft will travel towards the centre of our solar system on a mission to discover more about unsafe solar storms.

NASA hope the breakthrough journey will reveal why the sun's outer layer - the corona - is hotter than the surface.

He proposed the existence of the solar wind 60 years ago.

But these solar outbursts are poorly understood.

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That's around 4 per cent of the distance between the earth and the sun.

"Parker Solar Probe would be just 4cm away from the Sun", explained Dr Nicky Fox, the British-born project scientist who is affiliated to the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. We are ready. We have the flawless payload. The corona holds the answers to many of scientists' outstanding questions about the Sun's activity and processes.

It is the first space craft to be named after a living person - astrophysicist Eugene Parker, 91, who first described solar wind in 1958. The extreme pull of the sun's gravity will then accelerate the probe up to insane speeds of as much as 430,000 miles per hour (700,000 km/h) as it grazes the edge of the most powerful object in our corner of the galaxy.

NASA chief of the science mission directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said on Saturday that Parker is an "incredible hero of our scientific community", and called the probe one of NASA most "strategically important" missions.

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.

"And last but not least, we have a white light imager that is taking images of the atmosphere right in front of the Sun".

During its historic journey, the probe will jet past Venus at speeds of 430,000 miles per hour, the equivalent of flying from NY to Tokyo in one minute.

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