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NASA prepares to fly probe into Sun’s scorching atmosphere

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NASA is preparing to send a probe closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft has ventured, enduring wicked heat while zooming through the solar corona to study this outermost part of the stellar atmosphere that gives rise to the solar wind.

The Parker Solar Probe, a robotic spacecraft the size of a small car, is slated to launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, with Aug. 6 targeted as the launch date for the planned seven-year mission. It is set to fly into the Sun’s corona within 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) from the solar surface, seven times closer than any other spacecraft.

“To send a probe where you haven’t been before is ambitious. To send it into such brutal conditions is highly ambitious,” Nicola Fox, a project scientist from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, told a news conference on Friday.
The previous closest pass to the Sun was by a probe called Helios 2, which in 1976 came within 27 million miles (43 million km). By way of comparison, the average distance from the Sun for Earth is 93 million miles (150 million km).

The corona gives rise to the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles that permeates the solar system. Unpredictable solar winds cause disturbances in our planet’s magnetic field and can play havoc with communications technology on Earth. NASA hopes the findings will enable scientists to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment.

“It’s of fundamental importance for us to be able to predict this space weather, much like we predict weather here on Earth,” said Alex Young, a solar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. “In the most extreme cases of these space weather events, it can actually affect our power grids here on Earth.”

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The project, with a $1.5 billion price tag, is the first major mission under NASA’s Living With a Star program.

The probe is set to use seven Venus flybys over nearly seven years to steadily reduce its orbit around the Sun, using instruments designed to image the solar wind and study electric and magnetic fields, coronal plasma and energetic particles. NASA aims to collect data about the inner workings of the highly magnetized corona.

The probe, named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker, will have to survive difficult heat and radiation conditions. It has been outfitted with a heat shield designed to keep its instruments at a tolerable 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) even as the spacecraft faces temperatures reaching nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) at its closest pass.

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Reporting by Joey Roulette; Editing by Will Dunham


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Pence abruptly canceled trip because person he was meeting was about to be busted by the feds

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The White House abruptly canceled a planned trip to New Hampshire to prevent Vice President Mike Pence from being seen with somebody about to be busted for interstate drug trafficking of fentanyl, Politico reported Monday.

"Among the problems was a federal law enforcement probe involving individuals Pence would likely encounter, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the incident. If Pence stepped off the vice presidential aircraft, one of the people he would have seen on the ground was under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration for moving more than $100,000 of fentanyl from Massachusetts to New Hampshire," Politico reported.

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‘Do you love Puerto Rico?’: Fox News’ Shep Smith rips governor to shreds

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Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló was outed for cold and heartless comments he exchanged about his own island in wake of the horrific hurricanes that destroyed the island in 2017. He's also being forced to ask questions about the corruption involving the funding for hurricane relief. Nearly 1 million people have taken to the streets demanding accountability and action.

In his first interview, Rosselló may have assumed he'd meet a friendly audience on Fox News, but Shep Smith let him have it.

"The corruption is rampant in Puerto Rico," Smith said. "Economically Puerto Rico is in a fiscal crisis, $70 billion in debt and a 13-year recession. In the leaked 900 pages of profanity-laced messages, dubbed RickyGate, after you, sir, you made light of the casualties of the Hurricane Maria, you tossed homophobic and misogynistic remarks, You were calling the former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverit a whore. Of the oversight board that rules Puerto Rico's finances, you said, 'Go F-yourself. And when your representative to that board said he is salivating to shoot the woman who is the mayor of San Juan, you said, 'You’d be doing me a grand favor.' So, attacks on woman, gays, dead relatives on your own island and after that who is left to support you? Is it even safe for you to govern?"

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Puerto Ricans launch biggest protest yet against governor

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Angry protesters blocked the main road in Puerto Rico's capital on Monday as they launched what was expected to be the largest yet of a wave of demonstrations seeking the resignation of the US territory's embattled governor.

Marching under sunny skies in San Juan, the demonstrators sang, chanted, danced and carried the territory's red, white and blue flag with a lone star.

Altogether, hundreds of thousands were expected to turn out.

Puerto Ricans are up in arms over alleged corruption involving money meant to be for victims of Hurricane Maria in 2017, which left nearly 3,000 dead.

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