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Solar Probe Plus

July 22, 2008

NASA is planning an unprecedented trip to the Sun.


Close encounters with the Sun. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the next decade, NASA plans to send a spacecraft tantalizingly close to the Sun. Called Solar Probe Plus, the craft will plunge into the Sun’s diffuse outer atmosphere, or corona, which is actually hundreds of times hotter than the Sun’s surface. NASA solar physicist Lika Guhathakurta says the probe’s many instruments may reveal why that is.

We don’t have a clear understanding of that. We have many theories, but theories need observations to prove them right or wrong.

The probe will also study the solar wind, a million mile per hour blast of charged particles that can damage satellites, disrupt aircraft navigation, and even fry power grids. The probe will seek the source of the wind’s fierce energy. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.