NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has set two new records during its tenth flyby of the sun.
As it approached, the probe came within 5.3 million miles (8.5 million kilometers) of the Sun’s surface, the closest it has ever been to.
This close flyby also set a speed record, with the probe moving at 364,660 miles/hour (586,864 kilometers/hour).
For comparison, this would take the probe from Earth to the Moon in less than an hour, a trip that usually takes about three days.
And the US space agency indicated that this double record was recorded during the flyby of the tenth probe around the sun on November 21.
During this close pass, the probe detected higher-than-expected amounts of dust near the sun, according to Nour Al-Rawafi, a scientist on the Parker Solar Probe team at the Johns Hopkins Laboratory of Applied Physics in Laurel, Maryland.
“What’s exciting about this is that it greatly improves our understanding of the deeper regions of our heliosphere, giving us insight into an environment that has hitherto been a complete mystery,” she said.
The Parker Solar Probe is constantly bombarded with space dust, and although it does not have a dust detector, as the dust grains hit the chassis of the spacecraft, they heat up, evaporate and ionize, and form plasma clouds.
These clouds produce unique electric charges that are picked up by several sensors on the probe’s FIELDS instrument, which is designed to measure electric and magnetic fields near the sun.
Dust can pose a potential hazard to the probe, although it has many features that help it withstand damage.
Jim Kinison, Parker Solar Probe mission systems engineer, explained: “We designed materials and components that survive ultra-fast dust impacts and the impacts of smaller particles created in these impacts. We modeled the composition and effects of the dust environment, tested how the materials interact with dust particles, We have installed fault-resistant systems on board the probe that keep Parker Solar Probe safe in this unexplored region.”
After setting the new speed and distance record, the Parker Solar Probe will be directed towards getting closer and faster around the sun.
With the help of two more flybys of Venus, in August 2023 and November 2024, the Parker Solar Probe will eventually reach a distance of 4 million miles (6.2 million km) from the surface of the Sun in December 2024, at a speed of more than 430,000 miles per hour. .
The Parker Solar Probe, which was launched in 2018, is on a mission to improve our understanding of the Sun.
“Flying into the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, for the first time, the probe used a combination of in situ measurements and imaging to revolutionize our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind. It also makes important contributions to our ability to predict changes in the space environment of the Earth that affects life and technology on Earth.”
Source: Daily Mail