UA Scientists Gear Up to ‘Touch the Sun’

56 years ago, a now-retired UA research scientist helped build the technology that enabled humankind to stick its thumb into the solar wind for the first time. Now, her colleagues in the Lunar and Planetary Lab are awaiting the launch of the first spacecraft to be sent to our very own star.
Look at any image of the Earth taken from space and chances are you’ll find yourself marveling at what looks like the very essence of tranquility.

But the serenity of our blue-swirled marble floating peacefully in the black void is deceiving. The reality is more like that of soccer ball kicked around in a hail storm. The gentle sunshine warming our cheek on a late autumn afternoon is actually a violent affair that, if it wasn’t for our planet’s protective layers, would instantly kill us.

Earth, and all the other objects in the solar system, plow through what is known as the solar wind – a constant stream of high-energy particles, mostly protons and electrons, hurled into space by the thermonuclear furnace that is our sun.

“If you take all the energy consumed in the U.S. in one year and multiply that by a million, you get the output of the sun in one second. All forms of energy, except for atomic energy, ultimately come from the sun,” says Joe Giacalone, a UA professor and astrophysicist who is excited about the upcoming launch of the first-ever mission to “touch the sun.” Read the full article HERE