Published: Thu, November 01, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

NASA Parker Solar Probe spacecraft sets new record with Sun approach

NASA Parker Solar Probe spacecraft sets new record with Sun approach

Solar probe Parker, which launched July 31, has already set a record - he became the closest to the Sun man-made object in the entire history of space flight.

On Monday, the Parker Solar Probe surpassed the record of 43 million kilometres set by Helios-2 back in 1976.

Parker will make 24 close approaches to the sun over the next seven years, ultimately coming within just 3.8 million miles (6 million kilometers).

But to truly understand solar wind, scientists need to get closer to the Sun, and they've been thinking about such a mission such as the Parker Solar Probe since the late 1970s.

Parker is expected to beat the Helios 2 heliocentric speed record (measured with respect to the Sun) on 29 October at about 10:54 pm EDT (2:54 UTC, 30 October). Along with this, gaining momentum from the sun's powerful gravity, the probe will accelerate at a top speed of close to 690,000 km/hr. And the sun's powerful gravity will eventually accelerate the probe to a top speed of around 430,000 miles per hour (690,000 km/h), NASA officials have said. On its closest approach in 2024, the probe will be traveling at approximately 430,000 miles per hour, setting a new speed record for a manmade object.The probe will begin its first solar encounter on October 31. Over the course of next seven years, the spacecraft will study our star during 24 close flybys, getting close with each encounter. These observations will add key knowledge to NASA's efforts to understand the Sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds.

The Parker Solar Probe team measures the spacecraft's speed and position using NASA's Deep Space Network, or DSN.

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So far there have also been no reports of damage or casualties caused by the tremors, which locals say lasted for about a minute. The quake was centred over 250 km away in Tongariro National Park, east of New Plymouth on the country's North Island.

In a record breaking move, a NASA spacecraft made the closest approach to the Sun.

On October 31, the day of Halloween, NASA will begin its first so-called solar encounter with the burning star. Perihelion - nearest to the Sun point of the orbit - for the first time reaches 5 November.

Tomorrow, the probe will begin the observation phase of its orbit, turning its instruments - protected by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite heat shield - towards the Sun.

"It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focussed on our first solar encounter".

To learn as much as it can about the solar winds, Parker needs to get as close as possible to these eruptions.

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