How to Watch the Parker Solar Probe Launch

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https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

At 3:31AM on Sunday, NASA will attempt to launch an unmanned spacecraft which will go closer to the sun than any rocket before it ever has. NASA is bragging that the craft, known as the Parker Probe, will actually “touch the sun.” Now technically, the spacecraft won’t actually touch the surface of the sun; it will remain about 4 million miles away from the sun’s surface. But the probe will pass through the sun’s outer atmosphere, which will allow it to gather more information about the sun than we’ve ever had access to before.


NASA Will Livestream the Parker Solar Probe Launch Beginning at 3AM

You can watch a livestream of the launch here. The probe will attempt to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:31AM on Sunday morning (or late, late Saturday night, depending on your point of view). NASA’s broadcast starts at 3AM.

Bear in mind that this will be NASA’s second attempt to launch the Parker Probe, and there is no guarantee that it will succeed. The first launch attempt was on Saturday night, also at 3:30AM. But due to technical difficulties that took longer than expected to resolve, the spacecraft could not take off in the launch window. The blast-off was rescheduled for tonight. If it doesn’t work tonight, NASA will keep trying until August 23.

The probe isn’t heading straight for the sun. First, it will make a stop on Venus. That’s why it needs to take off so early in the morning; at 3:30AM, the launchpad is pointed in the right direction to get to Venus. That’s also why the deadline for the launch is August 23, since after August 23, Venus will move too far out of range for the spacecraft to reach it.


The Probe Will Collect Information About Solar Wind and Electrical and Magnetic Fields

The solar probe is expected to gather more information about the sun than we’ve ever had access to before. It will pass through the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, taking photographs, measuring electrical and magnetic fields, and studying the make-up of solar wind.

Solar wind is a steady stream of plasma and particles moving away from the sun and into outer space. Scientists are particularly interested in learning more about solar wind because of its impact on earth. Solar wind carries charged particles and magnetic clouds away from the sun, and some of it reaches as far as the earth’s atmosphere. The Earth’s magnetic field protects our planet — but the solar wind, and the particles that are carried along in it, still interact with our atmosphere in surprising ways — solar wind, for example, is thought to cause the phenomenon of “northern lights,” or “aurora borealis.

You can read more about solar wind and its impact on the Earth here.

At 3:31AM on Sunday, NASA will attempt to launch an unmanned spacecraft which will go closer to the sun than any rocket before it ever has.

At 3:31AM on Sunday, NASA will attempt to launch an unmanned spacecraft which will go closer to the sun than any rocket before it ever has.

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