NASA Parker Solar Probe smash records of a mission that touches the Sun



Tthe eyes of the sun sound like a mad dream. But in engineer performance that meets the 60-year-old recommendation of our local star, NASA Parker Solar Probe shows that the dreams will really be fulfilled.

Built by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, a probe launched in August broke two records on Monday: first, determining the shortest distance that spacecraft ever flew in relation to the sun, and secondly speeding faster than any spacecraft in history.

The Parker Solar probe was only 26.55 million kilometers (42.7 million kilometers) when it reached the closest orbit point in relation to the sun – called the perihelion – at 10:28 pm East on Monday evening, pampering an unprecedented 213,200 miles per hour at the collection of scientific data.

But this record is only the first of many that breaks the probe, explains project manager Andrew Driesman of Johns Hopkins APL in a news video.

"Closer to the sun than any other spacecraft"

"We will go closer to the sun than any other spacecraft has disappeared before. We will not do it once, we will not do it twice – we will do it 24 times, and that's scary."

At this first encounter, it went through a 26.55-million-mile probe from the surface of the sun, which is comparable to the previous record that Helios 2 reached near 27 million miles in 1976. Over the next seven years, the probe uses Venus gravity, to move on closer and closer loops. It is planned that by the end of the mission in 2025 it would immerse 3.8 million kilometers from the surface.

parker solar probe location.
Current location of Parker Solar Probe. The red lines indicate future trajectories, which are gradually approaching the sun as it shifts them around Venus.

But in hell heat and harsh radiation scientists are looking forward to studying solar magnetic fields, plasma and energy particles. Getting so close to the sun places Parker Solar directly into the solar corona, the atmosphere around the Sun, reaching 2500 degrees Fahrenheit (or 1377 degrees Celsius), which transcends the temperature of the surface itself.

It is here

To defeat the heat, the spacecraft protects its sunny side with a heat shield called Thermal protection system. Its name with a low level of creativity reflects how little this probe component is. A 160-pound shield, a 4.5-inch foam core located between the superheated carbon composite, has such a high heat capacity that it can withstand 820 degrees Fahrenheit while keeping the instruments safely captured at room temperature.

Parker Solar Probe
Parker Solar probe, with thermal shield installed.

Even in the Thermal Protection system, heat invites researchers to make communication simple. From four different beacon tones, it confirms that everything is fine, while the other three show different types of problems. In the days around the perihelion, however, solar radio emissions will turn off communications until the spacecraft responds with a beep.

"Mostly we will not be in contact with the spacecraft during a meeting, so the only thing we have to do is beacons," says Sanae Kubota, the lead leader in error.

Using data – which takes about 30 minutes to transfer between the probe and the Earth – scientists are looking for a better understanding spatial weather, such as solar winds. Although the sun is 92.96 million kilometers long, space weather affects both astronauts and inhabitants back on Earth by discarding satellites, including GPS systems.

For the fastest spacecraft, when the scientific data that the probe collects can not come fast enough. Because of the orientation of the spacecraft in the sun, scientists have to wait a few weeks before the data can be transferred back to Earth.


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