10 Things to Know About Parker Solar Probe

On Aug. 12, 2018, we launched Parker Solar Probe to the Sun, where it will fly closer than any spacecraft before and uncover new secrets about our star. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Getting to the Sun takes a lot of power

At about 1,400 pounds, Parker Solar Probe is relatively light for a spacecraft, but it launched to space aboard one of the most powerful rockets in the world, the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy. That’s because it takes a lot of energy to go to the Sun — in fact, 55 times more energy than it takes to go to Mars.

Any object launched from Earth starts out traveling at about the same speed and in the same direction as Earth — 67,000 mph sideways. To get close to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe has to shed much of that sideways speed, and a strong launch is good start.

2. First stop: Venus!

Parker Solar Probe is headed for the Sun, but it’s flying by Venus along the way. This isn’t to see the sights — Parker will perform a gravity assist at Venus to help draw its orbit closer to the Sun. Unlike most gravity assists, Parker will actually slow down, giving some orbital energy to Venus, so that it can swing closer to the Sun.

One’s not enough, though. Parker Solar Probe will perform similar maneuvers six more times throughout its seven-year mission!

3. Closer to the Sun than ever before

At its closest approach toward the end of its seven-year prime mission, Parker Solar Probe will swoop within 3.83 million miles of the solar surface. That may sound pretty far, but think of it this way: If you put Earth and the Sun on opposite ends of an American football field, Parker Solar Probe would get within four yards of the Sun’s end zone. The current record-holder was a spacecraft called Helios 2, which came within 27 million miles, or about the 30 yard line. Mercury orbits at about 36 million miles from the Sun.

This will place Parker well within the Sun’s corona, a dynamic part of its atmosphere that scientists think holds the keys to understanding much of the Sun’s activity.

4. Faster than any human-made object

Parker Solar Probe will also break the record for the fastest spacecraft in history. On its final orbits, closest to the Sun, the spacecraft will reach speeds up to 430,000 mph. That’s fast enough to travel from New York to Tokyo in less than a minute!

5. Dr. Eugene Parker, mission namesake

Parker Solar Probe is named for Dr. Eugene Parker, the first person to predict the existence of the solar wind. In 1958, Parker developed a theory showing how the Sun’s hot corona — by then known to be millions of degrees Fahrenheit — is so hot that it overcomes the Sun’s gravity. According to the theory, the material in the corona expands continuously outwards in all directions, forming a solar wind.

This is the first NASA mission to be named for a living person, and Dr. Parker watched the launch with the mission team from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

6. Unlocking the secrets of the solar wind

Even though Dr. Parker predicted the existence of the solar wind 60 years ago, there’s a lot about it we still don’t understand. We know now that the solar wind comes in two distinct streams, fast and slow. We’ve identified the source of the fast solar wind, but the slow solar wind is a bigger mystery.

Right now, our only measurements of the solar wind happen near Earth, after it has had tens of millions of miles to blur together, cool down and intermix. Parker’s measurements of the solar wind, just a few million miles from the Sun’s surface, will reveal new details that should help shed light on the processes that send it speeding out into space.

7. Studying near-light speed particles

Another question we hope to answer with Parker Solar Probe is how some particles can accelerate away from the Sun at mind-boggling speeds — more than half the speed of light, or upwards of 90,000 miles per second. These particles move so fast that they can reach Earth in under half an hour, so they can interfere with electronics on board satellites with very little warning.

8. The mystery of the corona’s high heat

The third big question we hope to answer with this mission is something scientists call the coronal heating problem. Temperatures in the Sun’s corona, where Parker Solar Probe will fly, spike upwards of 2 million degrees Fahrenheit, while the Sun’s surface below simmers at a balmy 10,000 F. How the corona gets so much hotter than the surface remains one of the greatest unanswered questions in astrophysics.

Though scientists have been working on this problem for decades with measurements taken from afar, we hope measurements from within the corona itself will help us solve the coronal heating problem once and for all.

9. Why won’t Parker Solar Probe melt?

The corona reaches millions of degrees Fahrenheit, so how can we send a spacecraft there without it melting?

The key lies in the distinction between heat and temperature. Temperature measures how fast particles are moving, while heat is the total amount of energy that they transfer. The corona is incredibly thin, and there are very few particles there to transfer energy — so while the particles are moving fast (high temperature), they don’t actually transfer much energy to the spacecraft (low heat).

It’s like the difference between putting your hand in a hot oven versus putting it in a pot of boiling water (don’t try this at home!). In the air of the oven, your hand doesn’t get nearly as hot as it would in the much denser water of the boiling pot.

10. Engineered to thrive in an extreme environment

Make no mistake, the environment in the Sun’s atmosphere is extreme — hot, awash in radiation, and very far from home — but Parker Solar Probe is engineered to survive.

The spacecraft is outfitted with a cutting-edge heat shield made of a carbon composite foam sandwiched between two carbon plates. The heat shield is so good at its job that, even though the front side will receive the full brunt of the Sun’s intense light, reaching 2,500 F, the instruments behind it, in its shadow, will remain at a cozy 85 F.

Even though Parker Solar Probe’s solar panels — which provide the spacecraft’s power — are retractable, even the small bit of surface area that peeks out near the Sun is enough to make them prone to overheating. So, to keep its cool, Parker Solar Probe circulates a single gallon of water through the solar arrays. The water absorbs heat as it passes behind the arrays, then radiates that heat out into space as it flows into the spacecraft’s radiator.

For much of its journey, Parker Solar Probe will be too far from home and too close to the Sun for us to command it in real time — but don’t worry, Parker Solar Probe can think on its feet. Along the edges of the heat shield’s shadow are seven sensors. If any of these sensors detect sunlight, they alert the central computer and the spacecraft can correct its position to keep the sensors — and the rest of the instruments — safely protected behind the heat shield.

Read the web version of this week’s “Solar System: 10 Things to Know” article HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

A Genius Mind Ahead of His Time

Although Nikola Tesla never accomplished some of his biggest dreams for the future, he still brought the world many wonderful inventions and discoveries. Stated in chronological order, some of the more important ones are: The rotating magnetic field induction motor and alternating current system of power transmission, 1882-1888; Tesla coil and oscillation transformer, 1889-1892; electro-mechanical isochronous oscillators, 1890-1892; Tesla wireless system, 1891-1893; electron tubes, 1892-1893; theory of radioactivity, 1896-1898; high-potential vacuum tubes, 1896-1898; telautomatics, 1897-1899; discovery of terrestrial resonance and law of propagation of conduction currents through the globe, 1899; high-potential wireless transmitter, 1899; art of transmitting energy by stationary terrestrial waves, 1906; speedometers on new principles, means for lightning protection, types of steam and gas turbines, pressure and vacuum pumps and other apparatus, 1916-1926.

nytimes.com
Raye Montague, the Navy’s ‘Hidden Figure’ Ship Designer, Dies at 83
Despite facing racism and sexism, she became the first person to design a Navy ship using a computer program. She was recognized nationally only later in life.

Montague was given six months to do what the Navy had failed to do for years: design a ship with a computer program. She ultimately completed the task in under 19 hours.

Catch a blessing and read her story real quick.

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2018.10.11

Week 2 has flown by so quickly… I can’t believe it’s Friday already tomorrow!  I already have my first midterm next Thursday for my electrical engineering course on circuits.  I’m kind of nervous.  To be honest, my professor is not the best at teaching, so I’ve had to teach myself the concepts from the textbook and practice problems.  Also, I have no idea what to expect with his exams!  Hopefully, things go alright!

In other news, my best friend and I created an instagram specifically for documenting our studies and our pre-med life.  If you’d like, you can follow us at @scalpelsandscrubs.  We mainly post on our story so far, since we haven’t really taken many photos yet since school has been getting hectic.  But yeah, check us out! :D

bbc.co.uk
How to cook curry and get a spacecraft into Mars orbit
Can you guide a spacecraft into orbit around Mars and cook for eight people morning and night? Yes, if you get up at 5am, and your name is BP Dakshayani. Here the former head of flight dynamics and space navigation for the Indian space agency explains how she did it - and the housework too. By Geeta Pandey
A battery that eats CO2

By Khai Trung Le


A new type of battery developed by researchers at MIT could be made partly from carbon dioxide captured from power plants. Rather than attempting to convert carbon dioxide to specialized chemicals using metal catalysts, which is currently highly challenging, this battery could continuously convert carbon dioxide into a solid mineral carbonate as it discharges.

The battery is made from lithium metal, carbon, and an electrolyte that the researchers designed. While still based on early-stage research and far from commercial deployment, the new battery formulation could open up new avenues for tailoring electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion reactions, which may ultimately help reduce the emission of the greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.

Currently, power plants equipped with carbon capture systems generally use up to 30 percent of the electricity they generate just to power the capture, release, and storage of carbon dioxide. Anything that can reduce the cost of that capture process, or that can result in an end product that has value, could significantly change the economics of such systems, the researchers say.

Betar Gallant, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, said, ‘Carbon dioxide is not very reactive. Trying to find new reaction pathways is important.’Ideally, the gas would undergo reactions that produce something worthwhile, such as a useful chemical or a fuel. However, efforts at electrochemical conversion, usually conducted in water, remain hindered by high energy inputs and poor selectivity of the chemicals produced.

The team looked into whether carbon-dioxide-capture chemistry could be put to use to make carbon-dioxide-loaded electrolytes — one of the three essential parts of a battery — where the captured gas could then be used during the discharge of the battery to provide a power output.

The team developed a new approach that could potentially be used right in the power plant waste stream to make material for one of the main components of a battery. By incorporating the gas in a liquid state, however, Gallant and her co-workers found a way to achieve electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion using only a carbon electrode. The key is to preactivate the carbon dioxide by incorporating it into an amine solution.

‘What we’ve shown for the first time is that this technique activates the carbon dioxide for more facile electrochemistry,’ Gallant says. ‘These two chemistries — aqueous amines and nonaqueous battery electrolytes — are not normally used together, but we found that their combination imparts new and interesting behaviors that can increase the discharge voltage and allow for sustained conversion of carbon dioxide.’

The battery is made from lithium metal, carbon, and an electrolyte that the researchers designed. While still based on early-stage research and far from commercial deployment, the new battery formulation could open up new avenues for tailoring electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion reactions, which may ultimately help reduce the emission of the greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.

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NOTE TAKING FOR FAST PACED STEM CLASSES

how to take notes during those fast paced STEM classes without getting left behind!

my foolproof cheat sheet study method: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsaRX-nFnJA

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