Parker Solar Probe: Nasa launches mission to 'touch the Sun'

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe into Space

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket launches NASA's Parker Solar Probe into Space

The Parker probe is expected to come within 6.16 million kms (3.83 mn miles) of the sun, the closest a spacecraft has ever gotten to the star.

"Fly baby girl, fly!" project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University tweeted just before lift-off, urging it to "go touch the sun!"

"The Sun's energy is always flowing past our world", Nicola Fox, mission project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement of the mission."And even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are attractive ― but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere".

Protected by a revolutionary new heat shield, the spacecraft will fly past Venus in October, setting up its first solar encounter in November.

Over the course of seven years, Parker will make 24 loops around our star to study the physics of the corona, the place where much of the important activity that affects the Earth seems to originate.

One of the reasons, scientists are sending the probe is the Sun's atmosphere and the weird property it exhibits, of being hotter than the surface of the sun itself.

The Delta-IV Heavy rocket - which was carrying the probe - launched at 03:31 local time (07:31 GMT).

Nasa's Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona
NASA Nasa's Parker Solar Probe is humanity's first-ever mission into a part of the Suns atmosphere called the corona

"During summer, Earth and the other planets in our solar system are in the most favourable alignment to allow us to get close to the Sun".

"We are ready. We have the ideal payload". The reason for the delay was not immediately clear, but was called for after a gaseous helium alarm was sounded in the last moments before liftoff, officials said. "We know the questions we want to answer".

In this Thursday, August 9, 2018, astrophysicist Eugene Parker attends a news conference about the Parker Solar Probe named after him, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The probe is the first NASA spacecraft with a living namesake.

Parker said he was "impressed" by the Parker Solar Probe, calling it "a very complex machine".

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'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".