Excerpt: If all goes according to plan, the Parker Solar Probe's observations will help mission scientists solve two long-standing puzzles: How is the solar wind accelerated, and why is the sun's outer atmosphere, known as the corona, so much hotter than the solar surface (3 million degrees F, or 1.7 million degrees C, compared with 10,000 degrees F, or 5,500 degrees C)? This latter situation is akin to water flowing uphill, said Parker Solar Probe mission scientist Nicola Fox, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland: "It shouldn't happen." These two big questions can be answered only by getting up-close observations of the sun, Fox added. And the answers are not just of academic interest. "One recent study by the National Academy of Sciences estimated that, without advance warning, a huge solar event could cause $2 trillion in damage in the U.S. alone, and the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. could be without power for a year," researchers at APL, which manages the mission for NASA, wrote in an online description. "In order to unlock the mysteries of the corona, but also to protect a society that is increasingly dependent on technology from the threats of space weather, we will send [the Parker Solar Probe] to touch the sun," they added. The Parker Solar Probe will carry a chip loaded with photographs of Eugene Parker and a copy of his seminal 1958 solar-wind paper, Fox said. NASA has also invited Parker to come up with an inscription for a plate that will be installed on the spacecraft, she added."
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