Nasa spacecraft sets off on incredible quest to touch the sun itself 11 months ago

Nasa spacecraft sets off on incredible quest to touch the sun itself

"A daring mission to shed light on the mysteries of our closest star.”

Do you know what Nasa are up to these days? The small matter of touching the sun with a space probe, that's what.

I know what you're thinking.

That probably sounds like a bad idea, blasting something into the sun, the perfect sphere of unfathomably hot plasma at the centre of our solar system.

But it is Nasa. They know what they are doing. You hope.

The Parker Solar Probe is a satellite about the size of the car, and it is even set to become the fastest moving manmade object history as it fires towards the sun, breaking the record previously set by Pedro Obiang's absolute banger against Spurs last season.

(If it needs pointing out, that wasn't the actual previous record. Sorry. Find out for yourselves. You have Google.)

After launching on the Delta-IV Heavy rocket - which sounds cool and probably is, yeah, fairly cool - at  03:31 local time in Florida (07:31 GMT) on Sunday, Nasa confirmed the flight trajectory "looked good" and that the probe had successfully separated from the rocket.

Now it will spend the next seven years flying through the sun's outer atmosphere in what Nasa has called "a daring mission to shed light on the mysteries of our closest star.”

It will take 12 weeks for it to reach the sun's atmosphere, and you can watch the full footage of the launch below:

Clip via NASA

The sun will be orbited 24 times by the probe to learn more about the physics of the corona, the outer ring of plasma around the star, where it is believed much of the solar activity that affects the earth originates.

It will be flying at speeds of 430,000 mph and endure temperatures of 1,300 degrees Celsius, moving as close as within 6.16 million km of the sun's boiling surface.

Obviously, that sentence is just a load of big numbers, so here is Dr Nicky Fox, a British-born project scientist to contextualise that distance for us in a handy little analogy.

"I realise that might not sound that close, but imagine the Sun and the Earth were a metre apart. Parker Solar Probe would be just 4cm away from the Sun," explains Dr Fox.

The probe will constantly be sending back data on solar winds and energy particles. It is the only spacecraft ever to be named after a living person; 91-year-old astrophysicist Eugene Parker.

Parker, who first detailed the possibility of solar winds all the way back in 1958, said of the launch, "Wow, here we go! We're in for some learning over the next several years," as he watched live from the base.