NASA spacecraft sets record for closest approach to sun

Pat Wise
November 2, 2018

The Parker Solar Probe is created to expand our understanding of the sun, measuring electrical and magnetic fields, cataloging the ingredients of the solar wind and photographing the corona - the outer atmosphere that is millions of degrees hotter than the sun's surface.

These records will fall again and again over the course of the Parker Solar Probe's $1.5 billion mission, which began August 12 with a liftoff from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Breaking this, NASA's Parker Solar Probe made way inside that distance crossing the threshold at about 1704 GMT.

The Parker Solar Probe beat the previously held solar proximity record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun, set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft back in April 1976, on Monday.

WE'VE now ventured closer to the Sun than we've ever been.

Nasa has confirmed that its Parker Solar Probe is now closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever been.

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"It's been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we've now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history", project manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement.

The Parker Solar Probe team measures the spacecraft's speed and position using NASA's Deep Space Network, or DSN. Perihelion - nearest to the Sun point of the orbit - for the first time reaches 5 November. It is expected that in 2024 it is as "fit" to the Sun at a distance of 3.83 million miles. Scientists expect Parker to reach a peak speed of nearly 190km/s (690,000km/h; 428,700mph) - but it will happen sometime in 2025. "This is a significant moment for us, but we continue to focus on the first maximum closer to the Sun, which should begin on 31 October".

This way, scientists will be able to forecast solar winds or solar storms that are known to create the attractive aurora borealis but also disrupt communications, satellites, or power grids.

The craft will seek to unlock some of mysteries about our Sun's behavior by sampling the corona, the birthplace of solar flares and other violent events, and get a better understanding of how solar winds are formed. Thus, it will provide the information, and also take samples of the corona's particle, and analyze the Sun's magnetic and electric fields.

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