NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will start collecting the most data so far on its next skim past the Sun, for almost two months. The Sun-grazing spacecraft was lifted off in August 2018 for a seven-year mission examining the Sun by reaching its outer atmosphere, known as the corona.
Scientists expected the probe to collect data for around 11 days on each flyby. But recent work exceeded their expectations. Parker Solar Probe’s mission has been extended, and it will continue to track the Sun’s activity through June 28. Here is what you need to know.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is a Huge Success
On the current flyby, the Parker Solar Probe had to turn on its tools while it was still 62 million miles away from the Sun. The spacecraft won’t realize its closest approach until June 7, when it will be approximately 11.6 million miles away from the giant star. Then, as its mission continues, it will be only 4 million miles away from the Sun. Such a thing, however, will represent a massive challenge for the Parker Solar Probe.
To reach that daring task, the probe must perform successive loops past Venus. During that maneuver, the instruments will take a closer look at the planet, catching an 11-minute eclipse, according to scientists’ forecasts.
“While our main goal is to comprehend the mysteries at the Sun’s corona and the “young” solar wind closer to the Sun, there is proof indicating very intriguing physics to explore earlier in orbit and link that to what occurs near the Sun,” detailed Nour Raouafi, the Parker Solar project scientists.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is worth $1.5 billion and is one of the most ambitious missions the space agency has ever developed. The spacecraft was named after solar scientist Eugene Parker. NASA also dedicated him a plaque that includes the scientist’s groundbreaking 1958 scientific paper, some images of him, and 1,137,202 names of people submitted by the public.