Early sunrise: Mission to 'touch' the sun blasts off from Florida

The mission costs £1.17billion

The probe, about the size of a vehicle, will fly through the Sun's atmosphere and will come as close as 3.8 million miles to the star's surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before (Earth's average distance to the Sun is 93 million miles), according to NASA.

And the mystery is profound.

That's where it will encounter temperatures of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

"I'm anticipating that the results will turn up basic information about why the corona of the Sun is at one million degrees".

Even though it will repeatedly fly through the corona, Parker will not experience such extreme temperatures because the ionized gas making up the outer atmosphere is so tenuous.

The Solar Probe Cup, dubbed "the bravest little instrument", is a sensor that will extend beyond the heat shield to "scoop up samples" of the Sun's atmosphere, according to Professor Justin Kasper of the University of MI.

Scientists have two theories about what heats up the corona.

"Fly baby girl, fly!" project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University said in a tweet right before liftoff. That defies the laws of nature. A key question that the probe seeks to answer is how solar wind is accelerated, and for the first time it will be able to look for answers at the source of solar wind itself.

Not only is the corona about 300 times hotter than the Sun's surface, but it also hurls powerful plasma and energetic particles that can unleash geomagnetic space storms, wreaking havoc on Earth by disrupting the power grid.

The spacecraft will analyse so-called "space weather", which is large eruptions of radiation from the sun which batter Earth.

The delicate instrument comes equipped with an array of instruments and tools which will scan the Sun for solar winds and magnetic fields.

Running 24 hours late because of a last-minute countdown glitch Saturday, the trek began at 3:31 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) Sunday when the 233-foot-tall Delta's three hydrogen-fueled Aerojet-Rocketdyne RS-68A main engines ignited with a rush of brilliant orange flame and quickly throttled up to 2.1 million pounds of thrust.

The spacecraft has been named after 91-year-old astrophysicist Eugene Parker, who was one of the many spectators who arrived at the launch site to watch the historic moment.

The Delta IV Heavy is slow to rise off the pad and Fox explained that she knew this fact going into the launch, so it wasn't any cause for concern to see the payload she's worked on the past eight years slowly and majestically rise off the launch pad.

The mission will last 6 years and 11 months, and in that time the Parker probe will orbit the sun 24 times.

He added: "It's a whole new phase and it's gonna be fascinating throughout.and we're just waiting for the data now so the experts can get busy because there's a lot of data will be coming in". All I can say is: "'Wow, here we go.' We're in for some learning over the next seven years".

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