Here’s How NASA Is "Touching" The Sun with the Parker Solar Probe

James Marshall
November 1, 2018

NASA's Parker Solar Probe has broken the world record for the closest approach to the sun ever achieved by a man-made spacecraft - and it's not stopping yet.

The probe surpassed the record of 26.6 million miles set by Helios-2 in 1976. It is expected to arrive at the Sun in November.To withstand the heat of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the probe is protected by a special 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield.UNITED LAUNCH ALLIANCE PREPS FOR THE RETURN OF MANNED SPACE MISSIONS FROM CAPE CANAVERALParker will face "brutal" heat and radiation during the epic journey that will take it to within 3.83 million miles of the Sun's surface, according to the space agency.

Over the next seven years, the probe will make 24 close approaches and finally get the closest it will ever be - at 3.8 million miles.

Back in 1976, Helios 2 made mark for fastest speed relative to the Sun at 246,960 km/hr.

Since its launch on August 12 from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, the probe has passed Venus and is heading closer to the Sun. Like the Parker Solar Probe, Helios 2 was a probe sent into solar (heliocentric) orbit to study the processes on the Sun.

Helios 2 also set the mark back then for fastest speed relative to the sun, at 153,454 miles per hour (246,960 km/h). By the time of its 22nd perihelion on 24 December 2024, it will be moving at a projected speed of around 200 km/s only 6.2 million km (3.8 million mi) from the surface.

The probe is comparable in size to a small auto and NASA expects it to reach speeds of 430,000 miles per hour.

The Parker Solar Probe team measures the spacecraft's speed and position using NASA's Deep Space Network, or DSN. The space agency reports that the probe now holds the record for closest approach to the Sun by a human-made object, passing inside the current record of 42.7 million kilometers from the Sun's surface on October 29, 2018, at about 1:04pm ET (17:04 UTC). Nevertheless, the team behind remain focused on the first solar encounter.

Tomorrow, the probe will begin the observation phase of its orbit, turning its instruments - protected by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite heat shield - towards the Sun.

Solar probe Parker should study the structure and dynamics of magnetic fields in the sources of the solar wind and the plasma particles around the sun.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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