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A 20-day launch window for the spacecraft's liftoff atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket opens July 31, 2018. The closest of Parker's planned seven approaches to the Sun, expected in mid-2025, will bring it within 4 million miles of the surface, or seven times closer than the 1974 Helios mission.

NASA hopes to get a probe as close as possible to the sun where it will battle extreme temperatures and radiation.

The solar probe is set to launch in the summer of 2018 and its aim will be to better understand how stars work and answer questions like why the Sun's corona is hotter than its surface. Understanding this will be important for protecting astronauts during space travel, Congdon says, and solar events can damage satellites and knock out power on Earth.

The Parker Solar Probe was officially renamed Wednesday in honor of Eugene Parker, the University of Chicago astrophysicist whose landmark 1958 paper predicted the existence of the million-mile-per-hour solar wind and its widespread influence across the solar system.

The data received from the Solar Prob Plus will improve the weather forecasting of major space. Still, the probe is only the most recent tool to help scientists learn more about how the sun works and when it may hurl high-energy particles our way. The mission, originally named Solar Probe Plus, will now be called the Parker Solar Probe.

Thanks to Parker, said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, "nature has become more lovely".

The announcement was made during a ceremony to honour Dr Parker, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago. The team is also designing solar panels that can swing into and out of the spacecraft, depending on the probe's distance from the sun.

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About four hours earlier, an 18-year-old man was shot to death in the Longwood Manor neighborhood on the South Side. The most recent fatal shooting happened at around 2:50 a.m.in the 5700 block of South Prairie, in Washington Park.

NASA has long wanted to send a probe to the sun's corona, but the technology to do so has only recently been developed.

The Solar Probe Plus leaving Earth, bound for hotter climes.

This is NASA's first mission to the sun and its outermost atmosphere, called the corona.

In order to reach an orbit around the sun, the Parker Solar Probe will take seven flybys of Venus that will essentially give the probe a gravity assist, shrinking its orbit around the sun over the course of almost seven years.

The European Space Agency also has plans to launch a probe toward the sun.

Inside the sun's outer atmosphere - the corona - a variety of instruments will take direct measurements of the energetic particles (electrons, protons, and ions) zipping around. It's the first time NASA has named a spacecraft after a researcher during their lifetime.

Fox added that the spacecraft is now being built and tested rigorously, as it will have to endure some of the most extreme conditions imaginable.