NASA’s Parker Probe Makes First Close Approach To Sun

Posted: Nov 8 2018, 7:38am CST | by , Updated: Nov 8 2018, 7:41am CST , in Latest Science News


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NASA’s Parker Probe Makes First Close Approach to Sun
Credit: Steve Gribben/Johns Hopkins

Humanity's first ever solar mission reached within 15 million miles of the sun's surface on November 5.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which launched earlier this year, has made its first close approach to the sun. On Monday night, the spacecraft flew within 15 miles of the sun’s surface and reached a top speed of 213,000 mph as it penetrated the corona or upper atmosphere of the sun. No spacecraft has ever been this close to the sun before.

NASA also lost contact with the Parker Solar Probe as it was traveled directly into the sun’s atmosphere. The space agency won't re-establish communications with the spacecraft until it is far enough from the sun to avoid radio interference.

Parker Solar Probe is humanity’s first ever mission to “touch” the Sun. Scientists have long wanted to send a probe through the sun's outer atmosphere to better understand the solar wind and the forces that trigger major eruptions on the sun but only in the past few decades technology has come far enough to make such an epic mission a reality.

Studying solar activity up close and personal is important because such events not only impact life on Earth but also interfere with satellites and astronauts working in space. Parker Solar Probe will provide our best chance yet at uncovering the mysteries of the sun’s atmosphere and may help resolve decades-old questions about the inner workings of our nearest star.

As the Parker probe explores the sun’s outer atmosphere, it will experience heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history. To protect Parker and its sensitive instruments from the sun's intense heat, a revolutionary heat shield is attached to the spacecraft. The 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield will keep the spacecraft at roughly room temperature and withstand extreme temperatures outside that reach almost 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit.

Parker Solar Probe will complete 24 orbits of the Sun during its under 7-year journey, reaching within 3.8 million miles of the Sun's surface at its final and closest approach. Recently, it shattered the previous record for becoming the closest human-made object to the Sunset, set by a NASA spacecraft in 1976 and will repeatedly break its own records as the mission progresses.

Parker Solar Probe began its first solar encounter on Oct. 31 and drew closer and closer to the Sun's surface until it reached its first perihelion or the point closest to the Sun on Nov. 5. The final and closest approach from the Sun's surface is expected in 2024.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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