NASA’s Parker Solar Probe sets out to try and ‘touch’ the sun

The Parker Solar Probe blasted off from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida early Sunday morning, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, on a remarkable mission. Its ultimate destination: the edge of the corona, the atmosphere of the sun, where it will make the first in-situ measurements there. The goal? To uncover crucial details about the origins of the solar winds, which go on to bombard Earth and pose a major challenge to our spacecraft and communications systems.

Oh, and to unravel a giant mystery about the sun’s temperature, too.

“The corona is very hot, millions of degrees Centigrade, and we don’t know why,” Stuart Bale, a University of California, Berkeley professor of physics who was one of the four principal investigators responsible for developing the FIELDS suite of instruments on board the probe, told Digital Trends. “The sun itself is a relatively cool — 6,000-degrees Celsius — star. Somehow this cool star makes the corona very hot. This hot corona then escapes the sun’s gravity and becomes the ‘solar wind.’”

The launch was delayed by a day to Sunday morning following a few technical concerns on Saturday, detailed on Twitter by ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno:

Sunday’s launch was flawless, however, a fiery arc of jet fire from the ULA rocket cutting up through the night sky at 3:31 am. “I’m grateful to our many partners who made today’s launch a success!” wrote NASA administrator Jim Bridenstein on Twitter.

parker solar probe this saturday nasa s launces from cape canaveral air force station at 3 31 am on august 12
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 3:31 am on August 12.

As you might imagine, a mission that essentially involves flying into the sun (or, at least, to its periphery) involves dealing with a fair amount of heat. While the Parker Solar Probe is equipped with a heat shield for protecting its various onboard sensors, it will nonetheless have to contend with temperatures almost hot enough to melt steel.

Bale has been working on the project since 2009 (“a long time,” he said), and everything since then has been building up to this point. Should all go according to plan, the instruments he helped develop will be used for measuring electric and magnetic fields in the corona and solar wind, before relaying this information back to Earth.

So spare a thought for the sleep-deprived folks at NASA HQ when you’re out enjoying your Sunday afternoon. And if, through some miracle, you happen to later spot a tiny solar probe traveling at 340,000 mph (note: unless you have Superman-level vision, this is extremely unlikely) make sure to wish it good luck on its journey.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Brutal and emotional, 'God of War' is everything a blockbuster game should be

In a new land, on a new journey, God of War evolves beyond the button-mashing action of its youth into an action game with engaging combat and an engrossing story.
Cars

Porsche goes rallying, and it’s not with the model you’re thinking of

Porsche channeled its racing heritage to turn the 718 Cayman, not the Cayenne, into a rally car. The GT4-spec model was built as a fully functional concept, and it will participate in its first rally during August.
Emerging Tech

The Perseid meteor shower peaks this weekend! Here’s how to watch

Thanks to a new moon, 2018's Perseid Meteor Shower will be much easier to view, with even the dimmest meteors observable by the naked eye. Here's how to see the show this weekend, and where the views will be the best.
Emerging Tech

Bizarre stork robot uses a drone to compensate for its weak, twig-like legs

Developed by engineers from Japan’s University of Tokyo, Aerial Biped is a robot whose top half is comprised of a flying quadrotor UAV that's rooted to the ground by thin stork-like legs.
Emerging Tech

A treasure trove of 3D scientific specimens is now free to see online

Thanks to the California Academy of Sciences, you can access more than 700 scientific specimens and artifacts from the world-class collection via the online 3D and virtual reality platform Sketchfab.
Emerging Tech

Lyd is a battery-powered, ‘no-spill’ bottle that is activated by your lips

Lyd is a battery-powered bottle that’s something like a sippy cup for adults. Its no-spill solution is a specialized lid that uses an algorithm to detect when your lips are on the bottle.
Emerging Tech

Cotton and corn! Reebok’s newest sneaker is ‘made from things that grow’

Keen to move away from using oil-based materials to make its footwear, Reebok has turned to cotton and corn for its latest sneaker. No dyes have been used to color the shoes, either, and the packaging is 100 percent recyclable.
Computing

Apple AR glasses will launch in 2020, says respected industry analyst

Apple AR glasses may be closer to reality than we thought. Here is everything we know so far about the augmented reality system, including the rumored specifications of Apple's Project Mirrorshades.
Emerging Tech

A new way to ‘freeze’ water could help transform organ preservation

Scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a way of keeping water as a liquid at temperatures far below freezing. Here's why that could help transform organ preservation.
Emerging Tech

Meet the Mantis Q: A drone you can control by yelling, waving, or even smiling

"Mantis, take a picture." Yuneec's new consumer drone, the Yuneec Mantis Q, responds to voice commands along with gestures and smiles. The 4K drone also integrates several different flight modes and safety features inside a one-pound…
Emerging Tech

This robot arm could soon recharge your electric car, no driver effort required

Researchers in Austria have developed a smart robotic charger that can automatically plug itself into any electric vehicle, no driver effort required whatsoever. What could be simpler?
Emerging Tech

Police body cams are scarily easy to hack into and manipulate, researcher finds

Nuix cybersecurity expert Josh Mitchell has demonstrated how it is possible to hack into and potentially manipulate footage from police body cams. The really scary part? It's shockingly easy.
Emerging Tech

Scientists try to trick brains of amputees with phantom limb syndrome

New research might help some amputees better mesh what they see with what they feel. In a recently published paper, researchers show how an amputee’s brain can be tricked into believing a prosthetic hand belongs to their own body.