NASA's Parker Solar Probe lifts off | Reuters | NASA soalr probe | probe Parker

NASA's Parker Solar Probe lifts off | Reuters | NASA soalr probe | probe Parker

NASA's Parker Solar Probe lifts off | Reuters | NASA soalr probe | probe Parker

A highly advanced heat shield just 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick was devised to keep the probe from melting.

The car-sized observatory is created to endure temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit as it flies within 4 million miles of the sun's surface.

"We are going to be in an area that is so exciting, where solar wind - we believe - will be accelerating", said NASA planetary science division director Jim Green. "We're in for some learning over the next several years", he said as he watched the lift-off.

"Three, two, one, zero, and liftoff!

In 10 to 20 years, a carbon disk will be floating around the sun in orbit, and it will be around until the end of the solar system", CNN quoted Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe project manager at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, as saying.

The probe, about the size of a vehicle, will fly through the Sun's atmosphere and will come as close as 3.8 million miles to the star's surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before (Earth's average distance to the Sun is 93 million miles), according to NASA. The spacecraft will make its first close approach in early November, when it will travel 15 million miles from the Sun - inside the Sun's corona (aka the solar atmosphere).

No wonder scientists consider it the coolest, hottest mission under the sun, and what better day to launch to the sun than Sunday as NASA noted.

The probe will make its closest approach in 2024 when the next total solar eclipse is expected to be seen over the USA, and with that, the spacecraft will be visible.

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It could be due to interactions between electrically charged particles and the sun's powerful magnetic field, or it could be the result of countless "nanoflares" governed by another mechanism.

NASA has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to "touch the Sun". "We have not been able to answer these questions".

NASA hopes the probe will help determine which parts of the sun are providing the energy source for solar winds and solar particles, and how they accelerate to such high speeds.

The plan is that it will slingshot around Venus a load of times, gradually building up speed and moving closer and closer to our galaxy's star.

"We'll also be the fastest human-made object ever, travelling around the Sun at speeds of up to 690,000km/h (430,000mph) - NY to Tokyo in under a minute!" she told BBC News. While the inside, or back surface of the shield will withstand temperatures up to 650 degrees Fahrenheit. "Even I still go, really?"

Finally, after two firings of the second-stage engine, the Parker Solar Probe and its Northrup Grumman solid-fuel upper stage were released from the Delta 4.

"So we're already in a region of very, very interesting coronal area", Fox said.

To "touch" the sun, the spacecraft will make a swing by Venus to shed some of its sideways momentum, allowing it to take a more straight shot toward the center of the solar system.

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