16 Nov 2018

Parker Solar Probe3 min read

Manifest Pedagogy

Along with the missions of ISRO, one has to keep track of launches of NASA, SpaceX etc. Comparisons between the missions with same objectives are the fodder for Prelims. The mission details are of significance importance for Mains. The facts and findings of the mission are to be noted and revised often.

Exploration missions and their names corresponding to the countries have been traditionally asked in Prelims but importance of exploration missions, their relevance to the society and importance for the country has rarely been explored in Mains. It is only in recent times such questions have been asked (Juno Mission). The best way to handle such topics would be to look at both geographical and technological aspects of the mission.

In news:

Parker solar probe becomes closest-yet spacecraft to sun on October 29, 2018.

Placing it in syllabus:

Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Awareness in the fields of Space

Static Dimensions:

  1. Solar Probe missions
  2. Science of Sun
  3. Effect of solar winds on Earth’s space environment

Current Dimensions:

  1. ISRO, NASA and other space agencies’ launches.
  2. Exploration of planets and stars


Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 12, 2018.

Parker Solar Probe is alive and well after skimming by the Sun at just 15 million miles from the sun’s surface. This is far closer than any spacecraft has ever gone. The spacecraft will repeatedly break its own records, with a final close approach of 3.83 million miles (6.2 million km) from the sun’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury, expected in 2024.

The previous record was set by Helios B in 1976 which held the record of 26.55 million miles (43 million km) from the sun’s surface.

This has exposed the spacecraft to intense heat and solar radiation in a complex solar wind environment. The spacecraft is shielded by carbon-composite shield, which will need to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 F (1,377 C).

It will provide close-up observations of the sun and helping us understand phenomena that have puzzled scientists for decades.

Flying into the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, for the first time, Parker Solar Probe will

  • Revolutionize our understanding of the corona.
  • Expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind.
  • Enhance our ability to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment that affect life and technology on Earth.

Parker Solar Probe will carry instrument suites designed

  • To study
  • Magnetic fields
  • Plasma
  • Energetic particles
  • And to image the solar wind.

Parker Solar Probe was designed to take care of itself and its precious payload during this close approach, with no control from Earth.

The Parker Solar Probe team periodically measures the spacecraft’s precise speed and position using NASA’s Deep Space Network, or DSN.

Why do we study Sun?

To learn more about stars, which have liveable planets like Earth throughout the universe.

To understand how life on Earth developed.

To learn about less familiar ways like solar winds, which affect Earth. Disturbances in the solar wind shake Earth’s magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts, part of a set of changes in near-Earth space known as space weather.

To learn more about causes of space weather – and how to predict it and protect our satellites.

The solar wind also fills up much of the solar system, dominating the space environment far past Earth.  As we send spacecraft and astronauts further and further from home, we must understand this space environment just as early seafarers needed to understand the ocean.

India’s Probe – Aditya-L1 mission

The Aditya-1 mission was conceived as a 400kg class satellite carrying one payload, the Visible Emission Line Coronagraph (VELC) and was planned to launch in an 800 km low earth orbit.

A Satellite placed in the halo orbit around the Lagrangian point 1 (L1) of the Sun-Earth system. Therefore, the Aditya-1 mission has now been revised to “Aditya-L1 mission”.

The project is approved and the satellite will be launched during 2019 – 2020 timeframe by PSLV-XL from Sriharikota.

Aditya-1 was meant to observe only the solar corona – outer layers of the Sun, extending to thousands of km above the disc (photosphere).

Aditya-L1 with additional experiments can now provide observations of Sun’s Photosphere (soft and hard X-ray), Chromosphere (UV) and corona (Visible and NIR).

Test yourself: Mould your thoughts

What are exploration missions? Discuss the importance of Parker Solar Probe as an exploration mission?

1 Response

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