NASA is gearing up to send a robot to the sun to help prepare for a “huge solar event” that could wreak havoc on Earth.
The Solar Plus Probe will come within four million miles of the sun’s surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft has endured before.
Scientists hope it will unlock the mysteries of the sun’s corona, the massive hole in the heart of the star.
Experts know that the unstable corona is believed to be cooler than the sun’s atmosphere, but have no idea why.
And it is a prime spot for producing potentially devastating solar wind, flares and mass “ejections” that can reach Earth’s atmosphere.
Scientists have spent 50 years trying to understand the impact freak space-weather events could have on our planet, but believe this mission could help us understand why they happen and help prepare for possible threats.
One recent study by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that without advance warning a huge solar event could cause two trillion dollars in damage in the US alone, and the eastern seaboard of the US could be without power for a year.
Nasa said: “In order to unlock the mysteries of the corona, but also to protect a society that is increasingly dependent on technology from the threats of space weather, we will send Solar Probe Plus to touch the sun.
“The primary science goals for the mission are to trace the flow of energy and understand the heating of the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind.
“Solar Probe Plus provides a statistical survey of the outer corona.”
The mission has three objectives.
First, it will trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind.
It will determine the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind.
The probe will also explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles.
To do this, Solar Plus will flyby Venus seven times in seven years to shrink its orbit and bring it closer than any man made object has to the sun.
It will reach speeds of 450,000 miles per hour.
This article originally appeared on The Sun.
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