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October 25, 2020
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NASA renames the first of its kind spacecraft to sun after Eugene Parker; Will launch in 2018

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Credits: CNET

Space exploration was indeed a great breakthrough in the world of astronomy. NASA is all set to send its probe to the Sun which will take the world of astronomy and physics to the next higher level.

First of its kind, this mission to a star will launch in 2018. NASA has renamed the mission “Solar Probe Plus” spacecraft as “Parker Solar Probe”. It will fly into the outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere, ‘corona’ , for the first time. Parker Solar Probe will also employ a combination of in situ measurements and imaging to revolutionize our understanding of the corona. It will also help expand the knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind.

Illustration of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun.
Credits: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

Parker Solar Probe will perform its scientific investigations in a hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation. The spacecraft will also fly close enough to the sun to watch the solar wind speed up from subsonic to supersonic. More interestingly, it will fly though the birthplace of the highest-energy solar particles.

NASA renamed the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft as the Parker Solar Probe in honor of astrophysicist Eugene Parker. The space agency announced it at a ceremony at the University of Chicago, where Parker serves as the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Eugene Parker
Source: University of Chicago

In 1958, Parker, then a young professor at the university’s Enrico Fermi Institute, published an article in the Astrophysical Journal. The article titled “Dynamics of the interplanetary gas and magnetic fields” was about high speed matter and magnetism constantly escaping the sun. It also read the affects it had on the planets and space throughout our solar system.

This phenomenon, now known as the solar wind, has been proven to exist. Parker’s work forms the basis for much of our understanding about how stars interact with the worlds that orbit them.

Eugene Newman Parker was born on June 10, 1927, in Michigan.  Parker has held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and also at its Fermi Institute. He has received numerous awards for his research. This is also the first time NASA is naming a spacecraft after a living individual.

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