Sunday, 20 January, 2019

Parker Solar Probe breaks speed record, becomes closest spacecraft to sun

Illustration of NASA's Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun Modal Trigger Illustration of NASA's Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. NASA
Theresa Hayes | 01 November, 2018, 17:55

In a period of only 78 days of the launch of Parker Solar Probe, the spacecraft has made history by cruising closest to the Sun. It is expected to arrive at the Sun in November.To withstand the heat of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the probe is protected by a special 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield.UNITED LAUNCH ALLIANCE PREPS FOR THE RETURN OF MANNED SPACE MISSIONS FROM CAPE CANAVERALParker will face "brutal" heat and radiation during the epic journey that will take it to within 3.83 million miles of the Sun's surface, according to the space agency.

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

Launched in August, Parker is on track to set another record late Monday night.

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). It launched in January 1976, and in April it approached the Sun at a distance of 43.4 million miles.

They will also investigate why the sun's corona is significantly hotter, at several million degrees Fahrenheit, than its surface, which remains at around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The previous record for closest solar approach was set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976. Now it is preparing to encounter the Sun on Wednesday, 31 October.

Starting Wednesday, the probe will begin moving closer and closer to the Sun's surface, until it reaches its first perihelion-the point at which the satellite is nearest to the Sun-around 10:28 p.m. ET on November 5.

"It's a proud moment for the team", he added, "though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31". The sun's gravity will eventually see the probe reach speeds of about 430,000mph.

To face the heat of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the spacecraft is well protected by a special 4.5-inch thick carbon-composite shield. On its closest approach in the year 2024, Parker Solar Probe will be travelling at approx 430,000 miles per hour and it will set a new record for a manmade object.

The Parker Solar Probe is the first NASA aircraft to be named after a living astrophysicist; 91-year-old Eugene Parker, who proposed the notion of solar wind.