The image above is of the Solar Probe Plus, a new NASA mission to study the sun closer than ever before. The Solar Probe Plus will travel within four million miles of the sun to take direct measurements of the solar wind in the sun's atmosphere. It will travel almost seven times closer to the sun than the current record-holder, the Helios spacecraft. The measurements it takes will help researchers learn how the sun's atmosphere is heated and how the solar wind is accelerated. This is the first mission which will take us into the sun's atmosphere and the University of Minnesota gets to be a part of making this happen. Awesome!
The U of M was recently awarded a $7 million grant as part of the $180 million Solar Probe Plus project. U of M professors will participate in the FIELDS experiment, one of four instrument suites aboard the spacecraft. Keith Goetz, the associate program director in the College of Science and Engineering's School of Physics and Astronomy, and his team developed the Time Domain Sampler (TDS) as part of the FIELDS suite. The TDS will measure electric and magnetic fields, radio emissions, and shockwaves in the sun's atmosphere. Read more about the U of M's involvement!
This video gives you a good look at the probe and explains the mission in more detail:
I think this mission is thrilling! Imagine "tasting, touching, smelling the environment of the sun"!
You can read more about the solar probe on the NASA website or check out the Solar Probe Plus mission website, which includes a timeline of the probe's journey. The bad news is that it's going to take a long time to travel to the sun; the good news is that I now have an event on my 2024 calendar!