U of M to be part of NASA solar probe projectby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The University of Minnesota will be part of an experiment with NASA to get a spacecraft closer to the sun than ever before.
NASA recently announced a $7 million grant to the university as part of the $180 million Solar Probe Plus project. The project will measure the electric and magnetic fields, radio emissions and shockwaves that course through the environment of the sun.
Keith Goetz, a scientist at the university's School of Physics and Astronomy, said the spacecraft will travel to within four million miles of the sun's surface.
"The solar probe will let us really dip right down in there and see what we call the acceleration region, which is where the coronal heating happens," Goetz said. "And so every three months, we'll be going through down to 9.5 solar radii and so we'll get lots of chances to make observations in close to the sun."
Goetz said nothing like this has ever gone this close to the sun.
"This is incredibly difficult to do and to build the thing we are going to go in the closest distance that we have in our orbit," he said.
Goetz said this project, which is slated to launch no later than 2018, will teach scientists more about how the sun works.