- Friday, September 14, 2018 from 4:00pm to 5:00pm
- Barnard Hall, 103 - view map
Parker Solar Probe: A Mission to a touch star –
and A Rocket science tour de force
Dept. of Physics, MSU
On Aug. 12 of this year NASA launched its boldest interplanetary mission yet: the Parker Solar Probe (PSP). It will fly into the Sun - and come back out. The solar wind's critical point remains the only solar-system frontier not yet crossed by a man-made probe; PSP is expected to cross it by Christmas Eve 2024. In addition to being a rather hostile, and very hot, environment, the Sun is the most energetically costly place in our astronomical neighborhood to reach: going directly to the Sun would take at least ten times more fuel than going to a nearby star. Since direct flight is prohibitively expensive, PSP will reach the Sun by performing a record-breaking sequence of seven (7) fly-bys of the planet Venus, over six years, gradually lowering itself into the Sun. Even this outline of the mission raises many questions: Why send a probe into the Sun? What is a critical point? Why would it require so much fuel to simply "fall" into the Sun? Why does it require seven fly-bys, rather than just one or even four? Why will it take 6 Earth years rather than 5 Venus years (3 Earth years)? I will attempt to answer these questions as an interested amateur (this is not my day job) using no specialized knowledge (since I have none). I will use the basic physics contained in Kepler's laws, Rutherford scattering, and Bernoulli's equation (for the rocket science).
- Department of Physics