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The Parker Solar Probe is closer and closer to the sun

It will ultimately reach closest point in December 2024

02.Oct.23 6:31 AM
By Shawn Highstraw
Photo NASA


The Parker Solar Probe is closer and closer to the sun
The Parker Solar Probe continues to break records. This week, the distance to the surface of the sun was closer than ever, measuring only 7.26 million kilometers. It marked the seventeenth close pass by our parent star.

On August 21, the spacecraft received a gravity assist from Venus, propelling it with a speed of 635,266 kilometers per hour directly toward the sun. This achievement also set a new record. The Parker Solar Probe is designed to autonomously protect itself and its instruments during these close encounters. The probe features an 11.4-centimeter thick heat shield made from a lightweight and strong carbon composite.

It is still unclear whether the spacecraft survived this close pass. The likelihood is very high, but today marks the first contact with the U.S. space agency since the close approach.

In the future, the Parker Solar Probe aims to get even closer to the sun. In December 2024, the ultimate close pass is planned, with the distance to the photosphere being just over 6 million kilometers.

Scientists hope that the Parker Solar Probe will provide more insights into our parent star. Our sun contains 99.86% of all the mass in our solar system. Questions about the origin of solar wind and the sun's magnetic fields, as well as the mystery of why the sun's corona is hotter than its surface, are expected to be definitively answered thanks to the solar probe.

Thanks to the Parker Solar Probe, we have already gained significant knowledge about our parent star in recent years. The spacecraft discovered a dust-free zone around the sun and captured images of the dark side of Venus, leading to several discoveries.

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