NASA Plans to Visit the Sun
"We are going to visit a living, breathing star for the first time," says program scientist Lika Guhathakurta of NASA Headquarters. "This is an unexplored region of the solar system and the possibilities for discovery are off the charts."
Solar Probe+'s lone remote sensing instrument is the Hemispheric Imager. The "HI" for short is a telescope that will make 3D images of the sun's corona similar to medical CAT scans. The technique, called coronal tomography, is a fundamentally new approach to solar imaging and is only possible because the photography is performed from a moving platform close to the sun, flying through coronal clouds and streamers and imaging them as it flies by and through them.
Solar Probe+'s repeated plunges into the corona will be accomplished by means of Venus flybys. The spacecraft will swing by Venus seven times in six years to bend the probe’s trajectory deeper and deeper into the sun’s atmosphere. Bonus: Although Venus is not a primary target of the mission, astronomers may learn new things about the planet when the heavily-instrumented probe swings by.
"Solar Probe+ is an extraordinary mission of exploration, discovery and deep understanding," says Guhathakurta. "We can't wait to get started."