In the hot zone
The Parker Solar Probe will
use four sets of scientific
instruments plus innovative
self-protective measures to
explore the environment near
the sun. Take a tour of the
1. Taking the heat
A custom-built heat shield (shown at left during testing in a vacuum
chamber) will guard most of the spacecraft from the worst of the
sun’s heat. Withstanding temperatures up to 1370° Celsius, the
shield will keep everything behind it at an average of 30° C.
2. Hunting for particles
The Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun experiment will
detect solar particles across a wide range of energies to decipher
how the sun accelerates the solar wind. One detector will search
for low-energy particles; another one will search for high-energy
particles. Small telescopes help show where the particles come from.
3. Taking sun selfies
The Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe, or WISPR, telescopes will
take images of the solar corona, solar wind, shocks and flares. These
images will help scientists interpret data from the other instruments.
One telescope will look ahead of the spacecraft, the other to the side.
4. Powering up
Two solar panels (one shown at lower left) are mounted on a movable joint to control how much sunlight the panels absorb. Close to
the sun, the panels will fold behind the heat shield, leaving only the
last row of solar cells exposed to take in energy.
5. Keeping cool
Parker will let off heat through a set of radiators (black material
shown at left during testing) worn like a collar between the heat shield
and the bulk of the spacecraft. Tubes of water carry heat from the
solar panels to the radiators, where the heat can escape into space.
6. Fielding signals
Five antennas make up the FIELDS experiment, which will measure
electric and magnetic fields in the sun’s neighborhood, helping
scientists figure out what makes the sun’s corona so hot. Four of
the antennas are made of a special material because they will be
exposed to direct sunlight.
7. Catching wind
At the back of the probe (not visible in the illustration above) is a
cup that is part of the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons, or
SWEAP, experiment. It will catch charged particles in the solar wind
and determine their temperature, density and speed. The cup will
be exposed to sunlight 475 times as intense as is felt on Earth.