NASA reports that 95% of the spacecraft survived the journey to the Sun

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft has survived its latest flyby of the Sun, coming within just 4.51 million miles (7.26 million kilometers) of the Sun’s surface, equaling its own record.

It is less than 5% of the Earth-Sun distance, which is a total of 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). For context, the closest planet to the Sun, Mercury, is 23 million miles (37 million kilometers) from the Sun.

Landmark Point

Launched in 2018 and on its 20th closest approach to the Sun, the car-sized spacecraft reached its closest perihelion on June 29 at 11:47 p.m. EDT, according to NASA. A blog post After testing the spacecraft with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. When it reached that landmark, it was traveling at 394,736 miles (635,266 kilometers) per hour, the fastest it had ever traveled. Its latest encounter with the Sun takes place from June 25 to July 5.

This 20th encounter with the Sun won’t be the probe’s last, but not much else on its mission. Its 21st close pass will be on September 30, followed by the 22nd on December 24, its 23rd on March 22 and the 24th on June 19. When that 24th perihelion takes the spacecraft 3.8 million miles from the Sun it moves at 430,000. miles per hour (692,017 kilometers).

External corona

Parker Solar Probe’s main mission is to study the Sun’s outer corona and understand its impact on the solar wind and the Solar System. This enables scientists to trace the source of high-energy particles from the Sun that form the solar wind that dominates the entire Solar System.

Increasing knowledge of the solar wind will help scientists determine where the edge of the solar system actually is, but on a more practical level, it could help predict space weather more accurately. Space weather can cause radio blackouts, damage satellites in orbit, harm astronauts and disrupt power grids. This results in spectacular views of the aurora, also known as the northern lights and the southern lights.

Powerful explosion

Last September, the Parker Solar Probe became the first spacecraft to fly through the coronal mass ejection from the Sun. A CME is a powerful burst of billions of tons of plasma from the solar surface that usually appears in the background of sunlight. If it is directed toward Earth, a CME can cause a geomagnetic storm, often leading to spectacular displays of aurora.

NASA is currently in the middle of it Big year for heliophysics, a celebration of solar science and the impact of the sun on Earth and the rest of the solar system. It began with the annual solar eclipse on Oct. 14 — which crossed nine U.S. states — and will be followed by the Parker Solar Probe’s closest approach to the Sun in December 2024.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

Take my books Stargazing in 2024, A stargazing program for beginnersAnd When is the next eclipse?

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