The unmanned spacecraft will travel all the way to the sun's corona, or outer atmosphere -- at 3.7 million miles away, about eight times closer than any spacecraft in history -- and withstand heat of 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Solar-powered, of course: solar arrays can retract and extend.
- Weight: 1,350 pounds.
- Signature feature: 8-ft.-diameter, 4.5-in.-thick carbon foam solar shield.
- To determine the structure and dynamics of the magnetic fields that cause solar wind.
- To trace the flow of energy in the corona.
- Determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport these particles.
- Explore "dusty plasma" near the sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particle formation.
Here's an animated look at the lightweight probe in action:
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com