The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on 31 May 2017 renamed the Solar Probe Plus Spacecraft, NASA's first mission to a star which will be launched in 2018, as the Parker Solar Probe in honour of astrophysicist Eugene Parker.
The announcement was made at a ceremony at the University of Chicago, where Eugene Parker serves as the S Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Eugene Parker was the first to predict the existence of the solar wind back in 1958. He theorized that the sun constantly sends out a flow of particles and energy called the solar wind.
This is the first time NASA has named a spacecraft for a living individual.
Eugene Parker's prediction of Solar Wind
In 1958, Eugene Parker published an article in the Astrophysical Journal called “Dynamics of the interplanetary gas and magnetic fields.”
The article was based on the observations of Parker which showed that there was high speed matter and magnetism constantly escaping the sun which affected the planets and space throughout our solar system. He proposed a number of concepts about how stars including sun give off energy.
This phenomenon has been proven to exist repeatedly through direct observation and it was named as the Solar Wind. Parker’s observation forms the basis for understanding about how stars interact with the worlds that orbit them.
Parker also theorized an explanation for the superheated solar atmosphere, the Corona, which is contrary to what was expected by physics laws. As per his theory, Corona is hotter than the surface of the sun itself.
Many NASA missions since then have continued to focus on this complex space environment known as Heliophysics.
About Parker Solar Probe
• Parker Solar Probe will be launched during a 20-day window that opens on 31 July 2018.
• The solar probe is going to a region of space that has never been explored before.
• The spacecraft is loaded with technological breakthroughs that will solve many of the largest mysteries about star, including finding out why the sun’s corona is so much hotter than its surface.
• The mission is part of NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) program to explore aspects of the sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. LWS is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.
• Johns Hopkins APL manages the mission for NASA and is designing and building and will operate the spacecraft.
When: 31 May 2017