Since 2021, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has been walking impressively close to the Sun in order to capture unprecedented data on our star.
In fact, the record-breaking spacecraft has completed its closest approach yet to a blazing ball of plasma in June, 5.3 million miles (8.3 million km) from the sun’s surface. To reach these amazing milestones, Parker gets a little help from her friends. Well, one friend: Venus.
NASA He says Parker is on track to make the sixth-closest flyby of Venus on Aug. 21, thanks to some careful maneuvers on Aug. 3. The goal is for the probe to use the gravity of the amber-colored planet to tighten its orbit around it. The sun – Parker’s technique He was hired repeatedly during its mission, which began with its launch on Aug. 12, 2018. If all goes well with this approach to Venus, Parker will be within about 4.5 million miles (7.2 million km) from the sun’s surface on Sept. 27.
But the story will not end there.
NASA has another flyby plan for Venus after this one, which is designed to lead Parker to within 3.9 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) of the sun. For context, Earth is 93 million miles (149 million kilometers) away from that bright yellow orb. So, Parker would get really, really close.
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To go into some technical detail, Parker’s final maneuver consisted of the spacecraft firing its small thrusts for 4.5 seconds in order to adjust its course by 77 miles (124 kilometers) and increase its speed by 1.4 seconds as it headed for Venus. These shifts are actually quite subtle since the probe was traveling at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour as it flew through the inner solar system.
During September’s upcoming solar approach, for example, the team says Parker will be moving at 394.742 mph (635.276 km/h) — a new speed record for the probe and for the spacecraft overall. And then closest approach At launch, Parker is expected to zoom through space at about 430,000 miles per hour (700,000 kilometers per hour) — a speed that NASA says will be fast enough to take you from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. in One second.
“Parker’s velocity is about 8.7 miles per second, so in terms of changing the spacecraft’s speed and direction, this course-correction maneuver may seem insignificant,” Yanping Guo, director of mission design and navigation at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, said. he said in a statement. “However, the maneuver is critical to obtaining the desired gravity assist at Venus, which will dramatically alter Parker’s velocity and distance to the Sun.”
since l launch In 2018, Parker was dubbed the probe that “touches the sun.” And that’s what I did. in 2021, finally flew out Through our star’s upper atmosphere, also known as the corona, which officially means it really “touched the sun”.
With Parker’s data, scientists hope to answer many of the big questions about our star, such as why the corona is hotter than the surface — what a strange mystery — and deciphering the entrances and exits of the stream of charged particles known as solar wind. And this is just the beginning. In the end, it will probably solve some mysteries that we didn’t know very well we had to think about.
After all, it was only recently that scientists discovered that the sun emits the highest energy radiation ever recorded, suggestion We may not have discovered this star yet.
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