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Pack Your SPF-5 Billion: We're Going To The Sun!

Illustration for article titled Pack Your SPF-5 Billion: Were Going To The Sun!

We're sending not one, but two probes to the sun in the next few years. Hopefully making first contact with the super-hot aliens who have been watching us from inside the solar coronas. Gallery below.

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The two solar missions were discussed at a conference of solar physicists in Bournemouth this past weekend. One mission, spearheaded by the European Space Agency, will launch in 2017. Protected by a 15-inch heat shield, the solar orbiter will take pictures of the sun's poles and its surface, orbiting at a distance of 20 million miles - a third closer than Mercury. Its orbit will take it past the sun's poles. Here are some cool pics of the solar orbiter:

Illustration for article titled Pack Your SPF-5 Billion: Were Going To The Sun!
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Illustration for article titled Pack Your SPF-5 Billion: Were Going To The Sun!
Illustration for article titled Pack Your SPF-5 Billion: Were Going To The Sun!

And then meanwhile NASA is launching a probe with the sexy, sexy name of Solar Probe Plus. Forget orbiting the sun - this baby will fly into the sun's upper atmosphere, known as the corona, and fly just 4.3 million miles above the surface. That's getting up close and personal! [Daily Telegraph]

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DISCUSSION

150 years isn't anywhere near correct. Its not days either.

The entire mission has a complete cycle time of 24 orbits totalling 6.4 years. The final 3 orbits within 9.5 Rs or 8.4 Rs* from the Sun's surface occur over a period of 88 days.

*Rs = 6.96x10^5 km, or (6612000 km and 5846400 km respectively)

Source: [solarprobe.gsfc.nasa.gov]