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

A NASA Spacecraft Just Broke the Record for Closest Approach to Sun

An artist’s illustration of NASA's Parker Solar Probe approaching the sun. Credit NASA JHUAPL

Until 2024 Parker should approach the Sun at a distance of 6.1 million kilometers.

"It's only been 78 days after Parker Solar Probe launched, and now we are close to our star, closer than any other spacecraft in history", said project Manager Andy Grisman.

Parker Solar Probe close to the Sun less than 42,73 million kilometers.

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At 1:04 p.m. EDT Monday, the spacecraft passed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun's surface as calculated by the Parker Solar Probe team. This flying ship was completed in 1976.

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. It launched in January 1976, and in April it approached the Sun at a distance of 43.4 million miles. After that, the probe will burn up in the sunlight. Over time, astronomers came to accept this idea, and then they began to study this moving plasma of electrons, and its effects on the Solar System, from the loss of Mars' atmosphere to space weather on Earth and the protection of orbiting satellites.

The $1.5 billion mission will take humanity closer to the Sun than ever before.

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Over time its orbit around the Sun will become shorter, but also more elliptical, meaning that the probe will be travelling progressively faster at perihelion (the closest point to the Sun) and slower at aphelion (furthest point from the Sun).

NASA employees measure the position and velocity of the probe through a network of deep space network (Deep Space Network).

Parker Solar Probe - jointly operated by NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory - went past the record at 2:54 a.m. GMT on Tuesday 30 October (10:54 p.m. Monday 29 October EDT). Perihelion - nearest to the Sun point of the orbit - for the first time reaches 5 November.

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The spacecraft is carrying a number of state-of-the-art instruments, allowing NASA scientists to collect vital data in order to answer fundamental questions about the Earth's closest star.

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