Cape Canaveral, It is extremely hot there. The rocket "Parker Solar Probe" should not affect the massive temperatures. One day late, the US space agency NASA sent a probe into space, which will fly through the solar atmosphere for the first time. A small irregularity during the countdown had deterred the researchers at the Cape Canaveral Space Station from saying goodbye to the "Parker Solar Probe" on Earth on Saturday.

The probe will now orbit the sun in large elliptical orbits, traversing the outer layer of the solar atmosphere, the corona. At her shortest distance she will reach a speed of 700,000 kilometers per hour. A small comparison: That would take her a good second from Hamburg to Berlin. In any case, the "Parker" probe is protected by a nearly twelve centimeter thick carbon armor, so that it should withstand more heat and radiation than ever before a missile. Meaning: 1370 degrees. "Parker" is to approach the star of our planetary system to about 6.2 million kilometers. The previous NASA probes from the 1970s, "Helios 1" and "Helios 2", still held a safety distance of 45 million kilometers to the sun.

The atmosphere is thin

"Parker" has great intentions in that the missile will be in an environment many hundreds of thousands of degrees high. Why does not it melt? In addition to the heat shield and other refinements, this is mainly due to the thin solar atmosphere, NASA notes: the temperature is a measure of how fast particles move, but the heat for the energy that they transfer together. Since there are very few particles in space, very high temperatures can prevail without heating up an object. So: Put a hand in boiling water, that's how you can keep it much shorter than with one hand in a 100 degree hot oven, NASA explained by saying, please do not try this at home.

The researchers expect the mission, which is scheduled for 2025, to provide insights into why the corona is many times hotter than the surface of the sun, and thus also about how stars work. The data could also make future weather forecasts more accurate. As the sun is our source of light and warmth, researchers also hope for new knowledge about evolution. (Ag).

("Die Presse", print edition, 13.08.2018)


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