The surface of the sun, or photosphere, is about 5,600 degrees Celsius (10,000 degrees Fahrenheit), but the region through which the solar probe flies, the corona, is within the order of millions of degrees. Scientists want to know why. Image credit: NASA/John Hopkins APL
On 11 August 2018, NASA plans to launch Earth’s first spacecraft to venture inside the orbits of Venus and Mercury to touch the very edge of the Sun’s fiery corona.
Outfitted with instruments designed and built at the University of California, Berkeley, United States, the Parker Solar Probe will achieve a goal that space scientists have dreamed about for decades: to get close enough to the Sun to learn how the turbulent surface we see from Earth dumps its energy into the corona and heats it to nearly one million degrees Celsius (two million degrees Fahrenheit), spawning the solar wind that continually bombards our planet.
“This is a piece of heliophysics science we all really wanted for a long time, since the 1950s,” says Stuart Bale, a UC Berkeley professor of physics, former director of the campus’s Space Sciences Laboratory and one of four principal investigators for the instruments aboard the mission. “For me personally, I’ve ...