Solar Probe

An artist’s rendering of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the sun

Touching the Sun to protect the Earth

A Q&A with Justin Kasper on going where no probe has gone before.|Medium Read
Members of the Parker Solar Probe team examine and align one of the spacecraft’s two solar arrays on May 31, 2018. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Part 7: The end of the mission

The clock on the Parker Solar Probe will start ticking when it runs out of fuel used to make the attitude adjustments necessary to keep the craft’s key components protected behind the heat shield. |Short Read
The Delta IV Heavy will launch NASA's upcoming Parker Solar Probe mission in July 2018. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Part 6: The big send-off

The power and fuel capacity of the Delta IV, along with an eventual gravity assist from Venus, will get the solar probe velocity down to a point where it can orbit the sun.|Short Read
Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield arrives in Florida on April 18, 2018, and is unloaded at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, where it will eventually be reattached to the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft before launch in late July. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman

Part 5: Sunblock and instrumentation

The extreme conditions of the corona are one of the main reasons a solar probe mission like this hasn’t been undertaken before. But Parker features a series of innovations that will allow the probe to get close enough to do what needs to be done. |Short Read
Preparing for the Parker Solar Probe launch meant plenty of calculations and testing to get everything right. Photo: Levi Hutmacher/Michigan Engineering, Communications & Marketing

Part 4: Using the gravity of Venus to reach the sun

While NASA never intended for the probe to return to Earth, Venus represents a point of no return. |Short Read
Artist’s concept of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

Part 3: Parker’s record-breaking ride

The probe will make multiple passes through the corona, utilizing seven gravity assists from Venus to bring its orbits closer and closer to the sun. |Short Read
Testing a model of the Faraday cup ahead of the Parker Solar Probe launch in July. Photo by Levi Hutmacher/Michigan Engineering, Communications & Marketing

Part 2: Testing: Simulating the sun on Earth

A key component of Justin Kasper’s sensory equipment, Parker’s Faraday cup, had to be shown capable of withstanding the heat and light of the journey to the sun. To test it, researchers had to create something new – a homemade sun simulator. |Medium Read
Digital rendering of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun

Part 1: Why we need an early-warning system for solar ejections

When strong magnetic fields crop up along the surface of the Sun cause the atmosphere above to twist, the buildup of magnetic energy leads to a sudden release, called a solar flare. When that energy reaches Earth, it has the capacity to wreak havoc.|Short Read
Digital illustration of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun

Key Parker Solar Probe sensor bests sun simulator—last launch hurdle

With old IMAX projector bulbs, Michigan Engineers simulate the sun.|Medium Read

Solar storm: U-M model’s predictions ‘a remarkable achievement’

A space weather tool Michigan Engineers developed was used to produce animations that show predictions of how the recent storm would distort Earth’s magnetic field. |Medium Read
A model of the activity in the magnetosphere of a planet when there is a solar storm. Model: University of Michigan

Solar storms: Regional forecasts now possible

Researchers at the University of Michigan and Rice University have developed a new tool to help forecast solar storms and their effects on the power grid and communication satellites.|Medium Read

Lights Out

The power goes out. The aurorae stretch to the tropics. Could a major solar storm mean a year without electricity? |Long Read