Another mark for historical records. NASA’s Parker space probe completed its seventeenth approach to the Sun on September 27. With this maneuver he broke his own distance record. passing just 7.26 million kilometers from the surface of the Sun. It is the fastest object built by humans in history and the one that has come closest to our star.
Parker reached this milestone thanks to a push from Venus. With the help of the gravitational impulse of this planet, on August 21, the solar probe reached the speed 635 thousand 266 kilometers per hour. It broke its own record for the fastest object.
NASA confirmed that the ship is in good condition and all its systems continue to function normally. Each time it approaches, the probe encounters brutal levels of heat and radiation.
NASA launched Parker into space in August 2018 with the goal of “kissing” the Sun. In 2021, it became the first spacecraft to fly through the corona, the upper layers of the Sun’s atmosphere. Since then, it has gradually gotten closer and closer with the goal of helping us better understand the star of our planetary system.
On the one hand, this is the closest star that we can study. On the other hand, changing conditions on the Sun could spread to the rest of the system and therefore affect life on Earth. The spacecraft collected information on energy flow, coronal heating and solar wind.
Secrets Revealed by NASA’s Parker Probe
NASA said the Parker solar probe is expected to make contact with mission operators on October 1. The spacecraft will then transmit data collected during this final approach to the Sun: information about the properties, structure and behavior of the solar wind.
Parker experienced one of the most powerful coronal mass ejections (CMEs) ever recorded in early September. Besides being an impressive feat of engineering, it enlightened the scientific community. Thanks to this flight Parker confirmed a theory that had been in development for two decades: the idea that CMEs interact with interplanetary dust. This is a key discovery for space weather forecasting.
CMEs are giant eruptions of the Sun’s outer atmosphere. They can affect the Earth’s satellites and change communication and navigation technologies. They could even shut down our planet’s electrical grids. Understanding how these events interact with interplanetary dust could help scientists better predict how quickly CMEs might travel from the Sun to Earth. This way we can know more accurately when the planet might see its impact.
At the beginning of August this year, two powerful successive solar flares were recorded. The last one, which occurred on August 7, affected high-frequency radio communications on the Earth side was illuminated by the Sun during the flare, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said at the time.
Facing the powerful heat of the Sun
The Parker Solar Probe is about the size of a small car and features a 4.5-inch thick carbon composite shield. Thanks to this, it can withstand temperatures reaching almost 1377 °C.
This NASA mission is in principle designed to last for seven years. The most recent approach is 17 out of an expected 24. Great goal: achieve approximately 6.2 million kilometers from the Sun.
The Parker probe was developed as part of NASA’s Living with a Star program. The project is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Parker is not the only probe traveling through space to study the Sun. And India, after conquering the moon’s south pole, launched its own spacecraft earlier this month to send a satellite to a location known as L1. This point is located 1.5 million kilometers from the Earth and allows continuous viewing of the Sun.
Source: Hiper Textual