All the talk of newly discovered planets in nearby solar systems that look to sustain life are exciting scientists and extraterrestrial enthusiasts alike. Amidst all of this research that delves into the possibilities beyond our solar system, there are still a few scientists that are focusing on the possibility of life forms much closer to home. Namely, our own star, the sun.
Scientists have a whole slew of reasons for wanting to make this unprecedented expedition, with heat-loving extremophiles being one of many. Experts are planning on sending a spacecraft, named the Solar Probe Plus, to get as close as possible to the sun to get readings on a few things that some scientists have been yearning for answers about. NASA will be sending the probe some 90 million miles, which will get the probe close enough to get readings about emissions from beams of high-energy particles and solar wind speeds.
These high-energy particles are being sprayed out from the sun at speeds that baffle researchers. The Solar Probe Plus should be able to get close enough and will be equipped to determine how these particles achieve the startling acceleration that they do. The craft will need to be unmanned because of the intense heat coming from the sun as well as the danger that these particles are hurtling through space at mind-boggling speeds present to astronauts. The particles and heat can be dangerous to spacecraft as well, meaning that the Probe Plus will be armed with a nearly 5-inch thick hull made from a carbon alloy. Other systems will be put in place to ensure the safety of the vessel.
The craft will be able to get within 4 million miles from the sun, which may seem far to us, but will be significantly closer that any other space craft has ever been able to get and will be an adequate distance to answer quite a few questions. The significance of finding life able to withstand such an extreme environment would mean a lot to scientists everywhere. Even if this life is single-celled extremophiles, this could mean that we were wrong about many other solar systems and planets that we have rejected as being possible places for life.