Thursday, July 18, 2024

Spacecraft Survives Getting 95% Of The Way To The Sun, Says NASA

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft has survived its latest close flyby of the sun, equaling its own record by getting to within just 4.51 million miles (7.26 million kilometers) of the solar surface.

That’s just under 5% of the Earth-sun distance, which totals about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). For context, Mercury—the closest planet to the sun—is 23 million miles (37 million kilometers) from the sun.

Landmark Point

Launched in 2018, and on its 20th close pass of the sun, the car-sized spacecraft reached its closest point—called perihelion—at 11:47 p.m. EDT on June 29, reported NASA in a blog post after the spacecraft checked in with the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. As it reached that landmark point it was traveling at 394,736 miles (635,266 kilometers) per hour, as fast as it’s ever traveled. Its latest encounter with the sun is taking place between June 25 and July 5.

This 20th encounter with the sun won’t be the probe’s last, but there are not many left in its mission. Its 21st close pass will take place on September 30, followed by its 22nd on December 24, its 23rd on March 22 and its 24th on June 19. That 24th perihelion will take the spacecraft just 3.8 million miles from the sun as it moves at 430,000 miles (692,017 kilometers) per hour.

Outer Corona

The main task of the Parker Solar Probe is to study the outer corona of the sun and understand the solar wind and its impact on the solar system. It is helping scientists find the source of the high-energy particles from the sun that make up the solar wind, which dominates the entire solar system.

Increasing knowledge of the solar wind will help scientists determine where the edge of the solar system actually is, but on a more practical level, it will help predict space weather more accurately. Space weather can cause radio blackouts, damage orbiting satellites, harm astronauts, and disrupt electrical grids. It also causes spectacular displays of aurora, also known as the northern lights and southern lights.

Powerful Eruption

Last September, the Parker Solar Probe became the first spacecraft ever to fly through a coronal mass ejection from the sun. A CME is a powerful eruption of billions of tons of plasma from the solar surface, which typically appear in the wake of a solar flare. If it’s Earth-directed, a CME can cause a geomagnetic storm, often leading to spectacular displays of aurora.

NASA is currently in the midst of its Heliophysics Big Year, a celebration of solar science and the sun’s influence on Earth and the rest of the solar system. It began with October 14’s annular solar eclipse—which crossed nine U.S. states—and will end with the Parker Solar Probe’s closest approach to the sun in December 2024.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

Pick up my books Stargazing in 2024, A Stargazing Program For Beginners, and When Is The Next Eclipse?

Source link

Hot this week

Underground Cave Discovered on Moon Could Shelter Future Lunar Astronauts : ScienceAlert

It's really not going to be easy for humans...

NASA cancels $450 million VIPER moon rover due to budget concerns

NASA has cancelled its VIPER moon rover program due...

Ken Griffin buys stegosaurus named ‘Apex’ for record $44.6mn

Unlock the Editor’s Digest for freeRoula Khalaf, Editor of...

NASA spacecraft reaches speed 500 times the speed of sound

 A NASA spacecraft has been recorded hurtling through space...



Related Articles

Popular Categories