As we inch closer to the much-awaited solar eclipse on Monday, Aug. 21, you might want to start considering where you’ll take it all in.
Sending a spacecraft near the sun poses some problems. Some are obvious (it’s 2500+ degrees up there!); some are less so (“hypervelocity dust particles“). Which is probably why it’s never been done before — until now, at least.
A team of ridiculously smart scientists from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory is working with NASA on the the first-ever Solar Probe Plus, “an extraordinary mission of exploration, discovery and deep understanding.” If all goes according to plan, the craft will get as close to the sun as possible — that is, 4 million miles away — and investigate some of the crucial questions that have bedeviled sun scientists for years: “Why is the sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the sun’s visible surface, and What accelerates the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system?”