NASA Explains Why the Sun Won't Be Able to Melt Their Solar Probe

NASA continues to amaze with its latest sun-related project, the Parker Solar Probe. The spacecraft launches next month and will get closer to the sun than any mission before it.

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My presumed fellow Angels & Airwaves megafans over at NASA are literally sending a probe within 4 million miles of the Sun, i.e. that big hot circular thing that makes my complexion look increasingly worse with each passing day.

Naturally, such a move has prompted a few worriers to wonder how the hell the spacecraft will be able to cozy up to that hot plasma without melting. As NASA's Susannah Darling wrote in a lengthy explainer Thursday, it's all in the masterful design. "Parker Solar Probe has been designed to withstand the extreme conditions and temperature fluctuations for the mission," she said. "The key lies in its custom heat shield and an autonomous system that helps protect the mission from the Sun's intense light emission, but does allow the coronal material to 'touch' the spacecraft."

In other words, fuck yeah.

In addition to the design of the Parker probe, melting isn't a worry thanks to the very nature of space itself. Unlike temperature, heat is actually a measurement of the energy transferred by particles. While particles moving at a faster rate will have a higher temperature, a low amount of particles will actually result in lower heat. Space, of course, has far fewer opportunities for transferred energy thanks to the fact that there aren't very many particles there to transfer energy—which would increase the amount of heat—to the Parker probe. Furthermore, the probe is equipped with the Thermal Protection System heat shield. 

During its planned seven-year mission, launching Aug. 4, the Parker probe will make multiple orbits around the Sun while measuring solar wind and studying the star's corona.

For more info on how all of this is made possible through the inspiring near-magic of science, read Darling's full breakdown here.

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