Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • [ MUSIC ]

  • The Parker Solar Probe – A Mission to Touch the Sunpresented by Science@NASA

  • People around the world look up and see our Sun every day.

  • But through a space telescope, it looks nothing like it does from down on the ground.

  • The surface dances with arches of solar material that reach up into the solar atmosphere,

  • an environment of charged particles and magnetic fields unlike anything we experience on Earth.

  • In 2018, the Parker Solar Probe will launch from a Delta IV Heavy rocket and travel approximately 3 months

  • to take its first swing by the Sun right through that atmosphere. Over seven years it will get ever closer,

  • until ultimately it's within 3.9 million miles (6.2 million km) of the Sun's surface.

  • That's so close, that the previous record holder, the Helios-B Spacecraft, was seven times farther away.

  • An important objective of the Parker Solar Probe is to learn more about the solar wind,

  • an exotic stew of magnetic forces, plasma and particles. It interacts with planetary magnetospheres and atmospheres,

  • which over the eons may have contributed to a planet's habitability.

  • It blankets our spacecraft and astronauts traveling to the moon and Mars.

  • It affects space weather at and around Earth and causes beautiful aurorae.

  • The solar wind also travels at immense speeds, and scientists want to learn why.

  • It leaves the Sun at a speed of up to 500 miles (800 km) a second and engulfs all major planets in the solar system.

  • What is the source of the wind? From a distance, it's difficult to tell.

  • Dr. Adam Szabo, the Parker mission scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center says,

  • We've been examining the solar wind for over 50 years.

  • But the wind is processed by the time it reaches Earth. By studying it much closer to the Sun,

  • the Parker Probe will be able to tell us such things as what part of the Sun is providing the energy source

  • for the wind's particles and how they can accelerate to such incredibly high speeds.”

  • It's like trying to understand how a car runs without looking at the motor.

  • It's important to get under the hood to determine the mechanisms driving the actual system.

  • The Parker Solar Probe is the only NASA mission named after a living person.

  • Dr. Eugene Parker, an astrophysicist, is credited with developing the theory behind the solar wind in the late 1950's.

  • When asked why he thinks so many people are drawn to this particular mission, Dr. Parker said,

  • “I assume it's the same reason that I got excited about it. This is a journey into Never Neverland you might say,

  • where it's too hot for any sensible spacecraft to function.

  • But some very clever engineering and construction has succeeded in making what looks like a very workable mission.”

  • Clever indeed. At its fastest speed, the Parker Solar Probe will orbit the sun at 430,000 miles per hour (716,000 km per hour),

  • that's fast enough to get from New York City to Tokyo in under a minute.

  • It will absorb temperatures as high as 2,500° F (1,400° C).

  • And soon, it will begin to transmit the data to help us better comprehend

  • one of the least understood phenomena in our solar system, the solar wind.

  • For more illuminating information about the Parker Solar Probe, visit


Subtitles and vocabulary

Click the word to look it up Click the word to find further inforamtion about it