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It is on an unprecedented quest that will take it straight through the edges of the corona, or outer solar atmosphere, just 3.8 million miles from the sun's surface.

Zooming through space in a highly elliptical orbit, the Parker Solar Probe will reach speeds of up to 430,000 miles (690,000 km) per hour, fast enough to get from Washington to Beijing in less than one minute.

"We need more understanding to predict these flares and coronal mass ejections as they produce space weather which could affect our technology-based society by damaging satellites and power grids", Korreck said, adding that "We also get the handsome northern and southern lights because of these effects". The launch was set to take place Saturday but was postponed.

The spacecraft, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on August 12, will transmit its first scientific observations in December.

The spacecraft's heat shield will serve as an umbrella, shading the science instruments during the close, critical solar junctures.

"Fly baby girl, fly!" project scientist Nicola Fox of Johns Hopkins University tweeted just before lift-off. "During summer, Earth and the other planets in our solar system are in the most favorable alignment to allow us to get close to the Sun". Among the puzzlers: Why is the corona hundreds of times hotter than the surface of the sun and why is the sun's atmosphere continually expanding and accelerating, as Parker accurately predicted in 1958? That probably sounds like a bad idea, blasting something into the sun, the flawless sphere of unfathomably hot plasma at the centre of our solar system. Those events can affect satellites and astronauts as well as the Earth - including power grids and radiation exposure on airline flights, NASA said.

Bear in mind that this will be NASA's second attempt to launch the Parker Probe, and there is no guarantee that it will succeed.

The car-sized observatory is created to endure temperatures of up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit as it flies within 4 million miles of the sun's surface.

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel at some 430,000 miles per hours - the fastest ever human-made object, fast enough to travel from NY to Tokyo in one minute. The cup will glow red when the probe makes its closest approach to the sun, sampling the solar wind and effectively touching the sun.

At closest approach, PSP will hurtle around the sun at approximately 430,000 miles per hour. It remains unknown how these electrically charged particles pick up speed.

The Parker solar probe is named after Eugene Parker, in recognition of his contribution to the study of the sun and of solar wind in particular.

The Parker Solar Probe won't touch the sun's surface, but it will monitor its electric and magnetic fields as well as the flow of plasma and solar-wind particles through the corona. That will be seven times closer than previous spacecraft.

Probe Parker must investigate the solar atmosphere and solar wind.

The University of Chicago professor said he had been biting his nails in anticipation.

Greeting the launch - on the back of a mammoth Delta-IV Heavy rocket - NASA tweeted: "3-2-1... and we have liftoff of Parker #SolarProbe atop @ULAlaunch's #DeltaIV Heavy rocket". "Parker Solar Probe will enable groundbreaking research, making space a safer to be".