NASA counts down to launch of first spacecraft to ‘touch Sun’

This handout illustration obtained July 6, 2018 courtesy of NASA shows an artist’s conception of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, the spacecraft that will fly through the Sun’s corona to trace how energy and heat move through the star’s atmosphere. (AFP)
Updated 13 August 2018
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NASA counts down to launch of first spacecraft to ‘touch Sun’

TAAMPA: NASA counted down Friday to the launch of a $1.5 billion spacecraft that aims to plunge into the Sun’s sizzling atmosphere and become humanity’s first mission to explore a star.
The car-sized Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to blast off on a Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida early Saturday.
The 65-minute launch window opens at 3:33 am (0733 GMT), and the weather forecast is 70 percent favorable for takeoff, NASA said.
The probe’s main goal is to unveil the secrets of the corona, the unusual atmosphere around Sun.
Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms and disrupt Earth’s power grid.
“The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth,” said Justin Kasper, one of the project scientists and a professor at the University of Michigan.


The probe is protected by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches thick (11.43 centimeters).
The shield should enable the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the center of our solar system, coming within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the Sun’s surface.
The heat shield is built to withstand radiation equivalent up to about 500 times the Sun’s radiation here on Earth.
Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).
Scorching, yes? But if all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay a cooler 85 F (29 C).
The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission.
“The sun is full of mysteries,” said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.
“We are ready. We have the perfect payload. We know the questions we want to answer.”


The tools on board will measure the expanding corona and continually flowing atmosphere known as the solar wind, which solar physicist Eugene Parker first described back in 1958.
Parker, now 91, recalled that at first, some people did not believe in his theory.
But then, the launch of NASA’s Mariner 2 spacecraft in 1962 — becoming the first robotic spacecraft to make a successful planetary encounter — proved them wrong.
“It was just a matter of sitting out the deniers for four years until the Venus Mariner 2 spacecraft showed that, by golly, there was a solar wind,” Parker said earlier this week.
He added that he is “impressed” by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it “a very complex machine.”
Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only in recent years did the heat shield technology advance enough to be capable of protecting sensitive instruments, according to Fox.
Tools on board will measure high energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.
“We will also be listening for plasma waves that we know flow around when particles move,” Fox added.
“And last but not least, we have a white light imager that is taking images of the atmosphere right in front of the Sun.”
When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from New York to Tokyo in one minute — some 430,000 miles (700,000 kilometers) per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.


Priyanka Chopra, Nick Jonas enjoy mini honeymoon in Oman

Updated 12 December 2018
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Priyanka Chopra, Nick Jonas enjoy mini honeymoon in Oman

DUBAI: Actress Priyanka Chopra and her new husband Nick Jonas reportedly escaped to Oman for a quick break this week after their headline-making nuptials in India.
The Bollywood star and US singer tied the knot in an extravagant wedding ceremony in the Umaid Bhavan Palace in the Indian city of Jodhpur in early December — a multiple-day celebration that took the international media by storm, with newspapers around the world reporting on the happy occasion.
The newly-married couple then took a short secret trip to Oman, according to media reports.
The newlyweds seem to have enjoyed the short honeymoon before their Dec. 20 wedding reception for Bollywood guests in Mumbai.
They shared snaps from their Oman holiday on Instagram, including one photo the bride captioned, “Marital bliss they say.”

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Marital bliss they say..

A post shared by Priyanka Chopra Jonas (@priyankachopra) on

The photo featured a makeup-free Chopra cozied up to her new husband, with the open sea and a mountain range visible in the distance.
The couple married in both Christian and Hindu wedding ceremonies, with the bride, groom and other members of the wedding party wearing outfits designed by Ralph Lauren for the former.
The Christian ceremony was officiated by the groom’s father, Paul Kevin Jonas, People magazine reported.
The 36-year-old star and fashion icon chose a stunning red outfit by Indian designer to the stars Sabyasachi Mukherji for the Hindu ceremony.
In an interview published in People magazine, the couple expressed their happiness about tying the knot.
“It was all tears. All tears. I could not hold it in. I think I was nervous and scared … But as soon as the curtains opened and I saw his face it was just like everything settled and I knew I was making the best decision of my life,” Chopra said.
Chopra, who headlined three seasons of the ABC crime drama “Quantico,” is one of Bollywood’s biggest female leads with acting credits in several big-ticket films.
Jonas, 26, and his brothers Kevin and Joe formed a band, The Jonas Brothers, in 2005 and soared to fame as members of Disney’s stable of teenage stars. The band split up in 2013.