<! – -> By NASA // November 1, 2018 <! – -> Parker Solar Probe keeps track of the closest…
By NASA // November 1, 2018
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(NASA) – Parker Solar Probe now holds the record for the closest approach to the sun of a human-created object. The spacecraft passed the current record at 26.55 million miles from the sun’s surface on October 29, 2018, at 1:04 pm. EDT, as calculated by the Parker Solar Probe team.
The earlier record of the nearest solar energy approach was established by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976. When the Parker Solar Probe mission progresses, spacecraft will repeatedly break its own record, with a final close approach of 3.83 million miles from the sun’s surface as expected in 2024.
“It’s only 78 days since Parker Solar Probe was launched and we have now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history, says Project Manager Andy Driesman, from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “It’s a proud moment for the team, although we’re still focused on our first solar experience, starting October 31.”
Parker Solar Probe is also expected to break the record for fastest spacecraft traveling in relation to the sun in October 29 at 10:54 am EDT. The current record for heliocentric speed is 153 454 miles per hour, as determined by Helios 2 in April 1976.
The Parker Solar Probe team periodically measures the spacecraft’s exact speed and position with NASA’s Deep Space Network or DSN.
DSN sends a signal to the spacecraft, which then sends it back to DSN, which allows the team to determine the spacecraft’s speed and position based on the time and characteristics of the signal.
Parker Solar Probes speed and position were calculated using DSN measurements made on October 24th, and the team used that information together with known orbital forces to calculate the spacecraft’s speed and position from that time.
Parker Solar Probe begins its first sunrise on October 31, continues to fly closer and closer to the sun’s surface until it reaches its first perihelion – the point closest to the sun – at 10:28 AM EST on November 5th.
The spacecraft will face brutal heat and radiation conditions, while providing humanity with unforeseen close-ups of a star and helping us understand phenomena that have puzzled scientists for decades.
These observations will add the key knowledge of NASA’s efforts to understand the sun, where changing conditions can propagate in the solar system, affecting the Earth and other worlds.
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