Parker Solar Probe

Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within four million miles of the Sun's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.

Visit APL's Parker Solar Probe website for more information.

Visit NASA's Heliophysics Gallery Page for other animations and data visualizations.

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Parker Solar Probe Media

  • Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter Trajectories
    2018.06.05
    The next missions scheduled for detailed studies of the Sun and solar atmosphere are Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter.
  • Parker Solar Probe Animations
    2017.09.22
    Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within 4 million miles of the sun's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.

    Parker Solar Probe is an extraordinary and historic mission exploring arguably the last and most important region of the solar system to be visited by a spacecraft to finally answer top-priority science goals for over five decades.

    But we don't do this just for the basic science.

    One recent study by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that without advance warning a huge solar event could cause two trillion dollars in damage in the US alone, and the eastern seaboard of the US could be without power for a year.

    In order to unlock the mysteries of the corona, but also to protect a society that is increasingly dependent on technology from the threats of space weather, we will send Parker Solar Probe to touch the sun.

  • Parker Solar Probe Beauty Images
    2018.07.12
    Still Image

    Parker Solar Probe sits in a clean room on July 6, 2018, at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, after the installation of its heat shield.

    Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

  • Parker Solar Probe Gets Visit From Namesake
    2018.05.17
    Eugene N. Parker, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, today visited the spacecraft that bears his name: NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. This is the first NASA mission that has been named for a living researcher, and is humanity’s first mission to the Sun.

    Parker proposed the existence of the constant outflow of solar material from the sun, which is now called the solar wind, and theorized other fundamental stellar science processes. On Oct. 3, 2017, he viewed the spacecraft in a clean room at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, where the probe was designed and is being built. He discussed the revolutionary heat shield and instruments with the Parker Solar Probe team and learned how the spacecraft will answer some of the crucial questions Parker identified about how stars work.

    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is scheduled for launch on July 31, 2018, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The spacecraft will explore the Sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of stars. The resulting data will also improve forecasts of major eruptions on the sun and subsequent space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.

  • Eugene Parker Imagery
    2018.07.20
    On August 6, the launch window opens for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to begin its journey to the corona of the sun, a mission that will bring it closer to the sun than any spacecraft has come before.

    Watching from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be University of Chicago Prof. Eugene Parker, 91, who has dedicated his life to unraveling the sun’s mysteries. He is the first living person to have a spacecraft named after him and now stands to become the fir

    zst person to see his namesake mission thunder into space.

    Parker is best known for radically altering ideas about the solar system in the 1950s by proposing the concept of solar wind. As a young scientist at the University of Chicago, he showed that the sun radiates a constant and intense stream of charged particles, which travel throughout the solar system at about one million miles per hour. This is visible as the halo around the sun during an eclipse, and it can affect missions in space as well as satellite communication systems on Earth.

    Parker’s theory of the solar wind was so groundbreaking that it was at first dismissed by leading experts, and he barely managed to publish the original 1958 paper that presented his theory. But he firmly defended his work and he was ultimately proven correct in 1962 with data collected by the first successful interplanetary mission, the Mariner II space probe to Venus.

    NASA last year named its most important mission to the sun after Parker as a tribute to his work, which established a new field of solar research. He stands as a giant among researchers who continue to push the boundaries of science, such as UChicago professors Wendy Freedman, the world-renowned astronomer first to precisely measure the expansion rate of the universe, and Michael Turner, who coined the term dark energy.

    The Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to launch during a window that opens August 6, 2018. The spacecraft will use seven flybys of Venus to slowly reduce its orbital distance and drop closer to the sun. Three of the spacecraft’s orbits will bring it within 3.8 million miles of the sun’s surface—approximately seven times closer than any other previous probe.

    “The solar probe is going to a region of space that has never been explored before. It’s very exciting that we’ll finally get a look,” said Parker, who was on the UChicago faculty from 1955 to 1995. “One would like to have some more detailed measurements of what’s going on in the solar wind. I’m sure that there will be some surprises. There always are.”

    The probe’s observations will help scientists understand why the corona is hotter than the sun’s surface, how the solar wind is accelerated and how to forecast its flares, among other questions.

    “Gene Parker’s story is about challenging assumptions. He came up with a new theory and proved that theory through meticulous, scientific calculations,” said Angela Olinto, dean of physical science at the UChicago. “Gene carries on a great tradition at UChicago of questioning the status quo to make discoveries and create whole new fields of science.”

    Although Parker is the first living person to have a spacecraft named after him, he is the fifth of his peers at UChicago to have the honor, with the other four having won the recognition posthumously. They include alumnus Edwin Hubble, AB 1910, PhD 1917, with the Hubble Space Telescope; Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, a UChicago professor who worked with Parker, with the Chandra X-ray Observatory; Enrico Fermi, a Nobel laureate and UChicago professor, with the Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope; and Nobel laureate Arthur Holly Compton, a UChicago professor, with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

  • Parker Solar Probe Instruments
    2018.08.08
    SWEAP

    The Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons investigation, or SWEAP, gathers observations using two complementary instruments: the Solar Probe Cup, or SPC, and the Solar Probe Analyzers, or SPAN. The instruments count the most abundant particles in the solar wind — electrons, protons and helium ions — and measure such properties as velocity, density, and temperature to improve our understanding of the solar wind and coronal plasma. SWEAP was built mainly at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. The institutions jointly operate the instrument. The principal investigator is Justin Kasper from the University of Michigan.

  • Soundbites from Parker Solar Probe Experts
    2018.08.09
    Nicola Fox - Parker Solar Probe Project Scientist, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

    [0:00]
    Parker Solar Probe really is a historic mission, it was first dreamed of in 1958 and it has remained the highest priority mission throughout that period. The reason it hasn’t flown is just because it has taken a while for technology to catch up with the dreams that we had for this amazing mission.

    [0:23]
    The coolest thing about my job is just the sheer feeling that this is a 60-year journey that people have gone on to make Parker Solar Probe a reality and to be there at the finish line as we’re on the pad and ready to launch—that is definitely the coolest thing about my job.

    Betsy Congdon - Lead Thermal Protection Engineer, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

    [0:51]
    After working on this for 10 years, it is really a pleasure to see it actually coming to fruition. To be one small part of this huge engineering team that is making science dreams come true is just amazing. I can’t wait to re-write textbooks and change the way we look at the Sun forever. I’m a whole ball of excited, and I honestly don’t know exactly how I’m going to feel at launch but I’m really excited to pass this off to the mission operations team and see all the science data that comes down and just get to enjoy all that Solar Probe brings us.

    [1:32]
    There are many enabling technologies, the solar arrays are really important, the autonomy is very important, one of the ones that is obviously also critical is the heat shield, and developing the technology to actually protect the probe at the Sun.

    [1:49]
    A sandwich panel is a lot like a honeycomb panel you find in a traditional spacecraft or on airplanes. You have the outer face sheets, and then you have a core. In this case the two outer face sheets are carbon-carbon composite, which is a lot like the graphite epoxy you might find in your golf clubs, it’s just been super-heated, and then the inside is a carbon foam. So the Parker Solar Probe heat shield has a white coating that’s on the Sun-facing surface of this giant frisbee that’s protecting the rest of the spacecraft. And that white coating was specially designed here at the lab, in collaboration with REDD and the space department as well as the Whiting school at Johns Hopkins proper, to actually work at the Sun, specifically designed for Solar Probe. And the concept is basically you’d rather be in a white car on a hot day, than a black car on a hot day—it just knocks down the heat that much more. So it’s helping us stay cool at the Sun.

    [2:43]
    The titanium truss was also specially designed for solar probe. It’s a really neat piece. It’s a welded titanium truss that’s about 4 feet tall, but it only weighs about 50 pounds. And the key there is we’re trying to minimize the conduction between the heat shield and the spacecraft, so you want to have as little stuff there as possible.

    [3:05]
    But then also the first closest approach will be a very interesting time. We’ll obviously be working towards closest approach a long time and getting science back from the beginning, but the heat shield has to do its hardest work 7 years into the mission, which has always been an interesting construct of the mission.

    [3:27]
    When we’re at closest approach, the front surface of the heat shield will be at about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The back surface of the heat shield will be about 600 degrees Fahrenheit. But the spacecraft bus is basically sitting at 85 degrees Fahrenheit. So the shield is actually really keeping everything very cool, most of the stuff is on the bus.

    [3:50]
    The mission that is in its current form is actually a solar powered mission, whereas some of the earlier concepts were nuclear powered. So they just had different mission designs, there were different constraints on the mission, and so once this current form iteration with a flat heat shield, or 8-foot frisbee as we like to say, because it’s basically a giant sandwich panel protecting the spacecraft as an umbrella, really developed as a part of this solar-powered mission that is its most recent rendition. And so, reaching out with expertise all around the lab, that whole team really brought this heat shield to fruition.

    Yanping Guo - Design and Navigation Manager, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

    [4:34]
    Of all the space missions I’ve worked on, Parker Solar Probe is the most challenging and complex mission to design and to fly. The launch energy required to reach the Sun is 55 times that required to get to Mars, and two times to Pluto.

    Annette Dolbow - Integration and Test Lead Engineer, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

    [5:00]
    So the tensest moment for me after launch is when we’re sitting in the control room and we’re waiting for that green telemetry to show that the spacecraft is turned on and we can actually talk to it.

  • Plaque Installed on Parker Solar Probe
    2018.05.21
    Still image

    A Parker Solar Probe team member from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory holds the memory card containing 1,137,202 names submitted by the public to travel to the Sun aboard the spacecraft. The card was installed on a plaque which was placed on the spacecraft on May 18, 2018, at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida. The plaque dedicated the mission to Eugene Parker, who first theorized the existence of the solar wind. Parker Solar Probe is the first NASA mission to be named for a living person.

    Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

  • Parker Solar Probe Path Across Sun's Surface
    2018.07.12
    The velocity of Parker Solar Probe is fastest right at perihelion. The spacecraft is so fast that near perihelion, it flies faster than the Sun rotates. This animation illustrates this by following the track of the spacecraft on map of the surface of the Sun. When the spacecraft flies faster than the Sun rotates, the orbit track on the surface goes backward (retrograde). At the turning points (labeled co-rotation periods), the spacecraft and the Sun are essential moving together (co-rotation). These periods of time, which last many hours, will be invaluable for making continuous measurements of solar wind from the same source.

    Credit: NASA/JPL/WISPR Team

  • Parker Solar Probe Orbit From August 2018 - March 2019
    2018.07.12
    This animation shows the first few orbits of Parker Solar Probe from August 2018 to March 2019 which includes two encounters with Venus. Note that the last orbit in this animation goes closer to the Sun than the early ones. This is because Parker Solar Probe uses “gravity assists” from Venus to modify its orbit to bring it closer to the Sun. The perihelion of the first orbit is about 35 solar radii whereas the perihelia of the final three orbits (December 2024 to June 2025) are less than 10 solar radii.

    Credit: NASA/JPL/WISPR Team

  • Looking at the Corona with WISPR on Parker Solar Probe
    2018.04.16
    The Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe, or WISPR, is aboard NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to take images of the solar corona (the Sun’s atmosphere) and inner heliosphere. WISPR’s telescopes will provide white-light images of the solar wind, shocks, solar ejecta and other structures as they approach and pass the spacecraft. Parker Solar Probe is scheduled for launch in July 2018. It will be the first spacecraft ever to fly through the solar corona to investigate the evolution of the solar wind and heating of the solar corona. WISPR does not look directly at the Sun. Its very wide field-of-view extends from 13° away from the center of the Sun to 108° from the Sun.
  • Parker Solar Probe Pre-launch Video File
    2018.08.09
    Center Contact: Karen Fox, karen.c.fox@nasa.gov, 301-286-6284
    HQ Contact: Dwayne Brown, dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov, 202-358-1726
  • Eugene Parker Soundbites
    2018.08.11
    Soundbites of Eugene Parker from a Parker Solar Probe prelaunch briefing on August 9, 2018 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
  • Eugene Parker Reacts To Parker Solar Probe Launch
    2018.08.12
    B-roll - Short version

    Dr. Eugene Parker watches the launch of the spacecraft that bears his name — NASA’s Parker Solar Probe — early in the morning of Aug. 12, 2018. Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first mission to the Sun and will travel closer to our star than any spacecraft before.

  • Launch of Parker Solar Probe
    2018.08.12
    Roughly the size of a small car, NASA's Parker Solar Probe lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At 5:33 a.m., the mission operations manager reported that the spacecraft was healthy and operating normally.

Parker Solar Probe Observations

  • Parker Solar Probe First Light Data
    2018.09.19
    Just over a month into its mission, Parker Solar Probe has returned first-light data from each of its four instrument suites. These early observations – while not yet examples of the key science observations Parker Solar Probe will take closer to the Sun – show that each of the instruments is working well. The instruments work in tandem to measure the Sun's electric and magnetic fields, particles from the Sun and the solar wind, and capture images of the environment around the spacecraft. The mission’s first close approach to the Sun will be in November 2018, but even now, the instruments are able to gather measurements of what’s happening in the solar wind closer to Earth.

Produced Videos

  • What is Parker Solar Probe?
    2017.09.22
    Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within four million miles of the Sun's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.

    Parker Solar Probe is an extraordinary and historic mission exploring arguably the last and most important region of the solar system to be visited by a spacecraft to finally answer top-priority science goals for over five decades.

    But we don't do this just for the basic science.

    One recent study by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that without advance warning a huge solar event could cause two trillion dollars in damage in the U.S. alone, and the eastern seaboard of the U.S. could be without power for a year.

    In order to unlock the mysteries of the corona, but also to protect a society that is increasingly dependent on technology from the threats of space weather, we will send Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun.

  • Parker Solar Probe Trailer
    2018.07.20
    Parker Solar Probe is NASA's mission to the Sun. The spacecraft will launch summer 2018.
  • Parker Solar Probe--Mission Overview
    2018.07.20
    A Mission to The Sun Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within 4 million miles of the sun's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth. In order to unlock the mysteries of the corona, but also to protect a society that is increasingly dependent on technology from the threats of space weather, we will send Parker Solar Probe to touch the Sun. In 2017, the mission was renamed for Eugene Parker, the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. In the 1950s, Parker proposed a number of concepts about how stars—including our Sun—give off energy. He called this cascade of energy the solar wind, and he described an entire complex system of plasmas, magnetic fields, and energetic particles that make up this phenomenon. Parker also theorized an explanation for the superheated solar atmosphere, the corona, which is – contrary to what was expected by physics laws -- hotter than the surface of the sun itself. This is the first NASA mission that has been named for a living individual.
  • Parker Solar Probe: Solar60 Series
    2018.01.30
    Parker Solar Probe Enters Thermal Vacuum Chamber

    NASA's Parker Solar Probe Deputy Lead Mechanical Engineer Felipe Ruiz and Lead Thermal Engineer Jack Ercol - both from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab - take us through the process of preparing the spacecraft for space environment testing. The Thermal Protection System (TPS) simulator placed on the spacecraft is to provide accurate simulation conditions during testing. Learn more here.

    Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Lee Hobson

    Watch this video on the Johns Hopkins APL YouTube channel.

  • Send Your Name to the Sun with Parker Solar Probe
    2018.03.06
    NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission will launch in summer 2018 to travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, closer to the solar surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and you can send your name along for the ride. To commemorate humanity’s first visit to the star we live with, NASA invites the public to submit their names to be included on a microchip headed to the Sun aboard NASA’s Parker Solar Probe.
  • Send Your Name to the Sun
    2018.03.28
    Submit your name and it will be included in a memory card that will fly aboard Parker Solar Probe spacecraft. Come with us as we plunge through the Sun's atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions—and ultimately providing humanity with the first-ever close-up view of a star. Submissions will be accepted through April 27, 2018. Learn more and add your name to the mission here: go.nasa.gov/HotTicket
  • Why Won't it Melt? How NASA's Solar Probe will Survive the Sun
    2018.07.19
    NASA's Parker Solar Probe is heading to the Sun. Why won't the spacecraft melt? Thermal engineer Betsy Congdon (Johns Hopkins APL) outlines why Parker can take the heat.
  • Blowtorch vs Heat Shield
    2018.07.19
    Betsy Congdon of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab is the Lead Thermal Engineer on the heat shield that NASA's Solar Probe will use to protect itself against the Sun. The shield is so robust, Congdon can use a blowtorch on one side and the other side remains cool enough to touch.
  • Discovering the Sun’s Mysteriously Hot Atmosphere
    2018.07.25
    Something mysterious is going on at the Sun. In defiance of all logic, its atmosphere gets much, much hotter the farther it stretches from the Sun’s blazing surface.

    Temperatures in the corona — the tenuous, outermost layer of the solar atmosphere — spike upwards of 2 million degrees Fahrenheit, while just 1,000 miles below, the underlying surface simmers at a balmy 10,000 F. How the Sun manages this feat remains one of the greatest unanswered questions in astrophysics; scientists call it the coronal heating problem. A new, landmark mission, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe — scheduled to launch no earlier than Aug. 11, 2018 — will fly through the corona itself, seeking clues to its behavior and offering the chance for scientists to solve this mystery.

    From Earth, as we see it in visible light, the Sun’s appearance — quiet, unchanging — belies the life and drama of our nearest star. Its turbulent surface is rocked by eruptions and intense bursts of radiation, which hurl solar material at incredible speeds to every corner of the solar system. This solar activity can trigger space weather events that have the potential to disrupt radio communications, harm satellites and astronauts, and at their most severe, interfere with power grids.

    Above the surface, the corona extends for millions of miles and roils with plasma, gases superheated so much that they separate into an electric flow of ions and free electrons. Eventually, it continues outward as the solar wind, a supersonic stream of plasma permeating the entire solar system. And so, it is that humans live well within the extended atmosphere of our Sun. To fully understand the corona and all its secrets is to understand not only the star that powers life on Earth, but also, the very space around us.

    Read more on NASA.gov.

  • Why It's Surprisingly Difficult to Send A Spacecraft Towards the Sun
    2018.08.08
    Why does the Parker Solar Probe have such a long and complex orbit to get close to the Sun? Why doesn't it just fall right toward it? Turns out it's a lot harder to approach the Sun than you might think. This video explains why.

    Music: Percs and Pizz from Killer Tracks.

    Watch this video on the NASA Goddard YouTube channel.

    Complete transcript available.

B-roll: Testing And Integration

  • Parker Solar Probe: Testing and Integration
    2017.09.22
    Main flight harness installation.
    Credit: NASA/JHUAPL
  • Parker Solar Probe: Environmental Testing
    2017.12.06
    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe passed laser illumination testing the week of Nov. 27, 2017. During this test, each segment of the spacecraft’s solar panels was illuminated with lasers to check that they were still electrically connected after the vigorous vibration and acoustic testing completed earlier this fall.

    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is in the midst of intense environmental testing at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in preparation for its journey to the Sun. These tests have simulated the noise and shaking the spacecraft will experience during its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, scheduled for July 31, 2018.

    Parker Solar Probe’s integration and testing team must check over the spacecraft and systems to make sure everything is still in optimal working condition after experiencing these rigorous conditions – including a check of the solar arrays, which will provide electrical power to the spacecraft.

    Parker Solar Probe will explore the Sun's outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of stars. The resulting data will also help improve how we forecast major eruptions on the Sun and subsequent space weather events that can impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space. The mission is named for Eugene N. Parker, whose profound insights into solar physics and processes have helped shape the field of heliophysics.
    Link to Parker Solar Probe blog post.


  • Parker Solar Probe Travels to Florida
    2018.04.13
    Parker Solar Probe Arrives in Florida

    On April 4, 2018, Parker Solar Probe project scientist Nicky Fox of Johns Hopkins APL describes the spacecraft's April 3 journey to Florida and arrival at Astrotech Space Operations, the probe's new home before a scheduled launch on July 31, 2018 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

    Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Lee Hobson

    Watch this video on the Johns Hopkins APL YouTube channel.

  • Solar Power: Parker Solar Probe Tests Its Arrays
    2018.05.08
    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe gets its power from the Sun, so the solar arrays that collect energy from our star need to be in perfect working order. This month, members of the mission team tested of the arrays at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, to ensure the system performs as designed and provides power to the spacecraft during its historic mission to the Sun.

    Parker Solar Probe is powered by two solar arrays, totaling just under 17 square feet (1.55 square meters) in area. They are mounted to motorized arms that will retract almost all of their surface behind the Thermal Protection System – the heat shield – when the spacecraft is close to the Sun.

  • Power Up: Solar Arrays Installed on NASA’s Mission to Touch the Sun
    2018.06.06
    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe depends on the Sun, not just as an object of scientific investigation, but also for the power that drives its instruments and systems. On Thursday, May 31, 2018, the spacecraft’s solar arrays were installed and tested. These arrays will power all of the spacecraft’s systems, including the suites of scientific instruments studying the solar wind and the Sun’s corona as well as the Solar Array Cooling System (SACS) that will protect the arrays from the extreme heat at the Sun.

    “Unlike solar-powered missions that operate far from the Sun and are focused only on generating power from it, we need to manage the power generated along with the substantial heat that comes from being so close to the Sun,” said Andy Driesman, project manager from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “When we’re out around the orbit of Venus, we fully extend the arrays to get the power we need. But when we’re near the Sun, we tuck the arrays back until only a small wing is exposed, and that portion is enough to provide needed electrical power.”

    The solar arrays are cooled by a gallon of water that circulates through tubes in the arrays and into large radiators at the top of the spacecraft. They are just over three and a half feet (1.12 meters) long and nearly two and a half feet (0.69 meters) wide. Mounted on motorized arms, the arrays will retract almost all of their surface behind the Thermal Protection System – the heat shield – when the spacecraft is close to the Sun. The solar array installation marks some of the final preparation and testing of Parker Solar Probe leading up to the mission’s July 31 launch date.

  • Cutting-Edge Heat Shield Installed on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe
    2018.07.05
    The launch of Parker Solar Probe, the mission that will get closer to the Sun than any human-made object has ever gone, is quickly approaching, and on June 27, 2018, Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield – called the Thermal Protection System, or TPS – was installed on the spacecraft.

    A mission sixty years in the making, Parker Solar Probe will make a historic journey to the Sun’s corona, a region of the solar atmosphere. With the help of its revolutionary heat shield, now permanently attached to the spacecraft in preparation for its August 2018 launch, the spacecraft’s orbit will carry it to within 4 million miles of the Sun's fiercely hot surface, where it will collect unprecedented data about the inner workings of the corona.

    The eight-foot-diameter heat shield will safeguard everything within its umbra, the shadow it casts on the spacecraft. At Parker Solar Probe’s closest approach to the Sun, temperatures on the heat shield will reach nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, but the spacecraft and its instruments will be kept at a relatively comfortable temperature of about 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The heat shield is made of two panels of superheated carbon-carbon composite sandwiching a lightweight 4.5-inch-thick carbon foam core. The Sun-facing side of the heat shield is also sprayed with a specially formulated white coating to reflect as much of the Sun’s energy away from the spacecraft as possible.

    The heat shield itself weighs only about 160 pounds – here on Earth, the foam core is 97% air. Because Parker Solar Probe travels so fast – 430,000 miles per hour at its closest approach to the Sun, fast enough to travel from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., in about one second – the shield and spacecraft have to be light to achieve the needed orbit.

    The reinstallation of the Thermal Protection System – which was briefly attached to the spacecraft during testing at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, in fall 2017 – marks the first time in months that Parker Solar Probe has been fully integrated. The heat shield and spacecraft underwent testing and evaluation separately at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, before shipping out to Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, in April 2018. With the recent reunification, Parker Solar Probe inches closer to launch and toward the Sun.

    Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star Program, or LWS, to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. LWS is managed by NASA Goddard for the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory manages the Parker Solar Probe mission for NASA. APL designed and built the spacecraft and will also operate it.

  • Parker Solar Probe Prepares to Head Toward Launch Pad
    2018.07.31
    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is lifted to the third stage rocket motor on July 11, 2018, at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida. In addition to using the largest operational launch vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, Parker Solar Probe will use a third stage rocket to gain the speed needed to reach the Sun, which takes 55 times more energy than reaching Mars.

    Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

About The Sun

  • Space Weather Vocabulary
    2013.02.26
    We are all familiar with weather on Earth, but how much do you know about weather in space? Suitable for all ages, this introduction to space weather covers vocabulary like coronal mass ejection (CME), solar wind, and solar flare. It also outlines potential effects of solar storms on our planet.

    This video is available in English and Spanish, both with English subtitles.

    Todo el mundo está familiarizado con el clima de la Tierra pero, ¿cuánto sabes sobre meteorología espacial? Este video introductorio al clima espacial, apropiado para todas las edades y niveles, explica términos científicos como eyección de masa coronal, viento solar o erupción solar.También provee una descripción general sobre los efectos potenciales que tienen las tormentas solares en nuestro planeta.

    El vídeo está disponible en español e inglés, ambas versiones con subtítulos en inglés.

  • SDO 4k Slow-rotation Sun Resource Page
    2017.06.02
    SDO, the Solar Dynamics Observatory, images the entire sun at 4096x4096 resolution in multiple wavelengths every 12 seconds. The selection below represents some of the best options for full-disk slow rotation. The 4k content is available for download as frame sequences, and, in some cases, as ProRes video. These files are large and will take a long time to download.
  • SDO Anniversary Series
    2017.06.02
    The sun is always changing and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory is always watching. Launched on Feb. 11, 2010, SDO keeps a 24-hour eye on the entire disk of the sun, with a prime view of the graceful dance of solar material coursing through the sun's atmosphere, the corona.

Graphics

  • NASA's Heliophysics Fleet
    2018.06.01
    Heliophysics encompasses science that improves our un­derstanding of fundamental physical processes throughout the solar system, and enables us to understand how the Sun, as the major driver of the energy throughout the solar system, impacts our technological society. The scope of heliophysics is vast, spanning from the Sun’s interior to Earth’s upper atmosphere, throughout interplanetary space, to the edges of the heliosphere, where the solar wind interacts with the local interstellar medium. Heliophysics incorporates studies of the interconnected elements in a single system that produces dynamic space weather and that evolves in response to solar, planetary, and interstellar conditions.
  • Mind-Melting Facts About the Sun
    2018.07.12
    Fascinating Facts about the Sun.
  • Parker Solar Probe - Close to the Sun
    2018.08.07
    Image of Parker Solar Probe distance from the Sun.
  • Solar Corona Science Timeline
    2018.08.07
    A timeline of science of the solar atmosphere.
  • Parker Solar Probe
    2018.08.07
    Specifications on the Parker Solar Probe and its mission.

Press Briefings

Visuals shown at media events
  • Parker Solar Probe Pre-Launch Briefing
    2018.08.09
    Hosted by Karen Fox - Heliophysics Communications Lead, NASA Goddard/NASA HQ

    Speakers:
    Scott Messer - Program Manager, NASA Programs, United Launch Alliance
    Omar Baez - Launch Director, NASA, Kennedy Space Center
    Kathy Rice - Launch Weather Officer, 45th Weather Squadron, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
    Thomas Zurbuchen - Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA
    Nicola Fox - Parker Solar Probe Project Scientist, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab
    Andy Dreisman - Project Manger The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

  • Parker Solar Probe Science Briefing
    2018.07.20
    July 20, 2018 - Live from NASA Kennedy - 1:00 p.m. EST Hosted by Karen Fox - Heliophysics Communications Lead, NASA Goddard/NASA HQ Speakers: Nicola Fox - Parker Solar Probe Project Scientist, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab Alex Young - Solar Scientist from NASA Goddard Thomas Zurbuchen - Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Betsy Congdon - Thermal Protection System Engineer at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab
  • Sunset Show for Parker Solar Probe
    2018.08.22
    Early in the morning of Aug. 12, NASA launched Parker Solar Probe, humanity’s first mission to the Sun. This spacecraft will fly closer to the Sun than any before it, in a daring journey facing brutal heat and radiation. Parker Solar Probe sets its sights on the Sun’s scorching outer atmosphere, called the corona, in order to solve our star’s greatest mysteries. It will revolutionize our understanding not only of the Sun, but also the space around us, and even the lives of stars beyond our solar system — crucial information as we explore more of space. On Aug. 10, scientists and mission experts gathered at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for a live sunset show — one of the last times the Sun set on Parker Solar Probe before it launched — to talk about what this landmark mission will teach us of the Sun. Guests included: - Jim Spann, Chief Solar Scientist, NASA HQ - Yari Collado-Vega, Space Weather Scientist, NASA Goddard - C. Alex Young, Solar Scientist, NASA Goddard - Nicola Fox, Parker Solar Probe Project Scientist, JHU Applied Physics Laboratory (APL)