NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has again completed a close flyby of the Sun in a bid to understand how our neighbouring star works. It was Parker’s 11th close approach to the Sun and it came within 5.3 million miles (8.5 million kilometres) of the nearly perfect ball of hot plasma. In comparison, the distance was about 14 times closer than Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. NASA said at that distance, the probe experienced temperatures exceeding 760 degrees Celsius. At its closest, Parker was moving with a speed of over 580,000 kilometres per hour, matching the previous record as the fastest and closest object to the Sun.
Parker was launched in August 2018 to study the Sun’s outer atmosphere. It has four different suites to learn more about how the corona works and how it affects the weather near our planet, including through coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Charged particles emitted from the Sun with CMEs can hit our power infrastructure and satellites. On the other hand, these solar events can also produce colourful displays called auroras in the skies. Also, the Sun’s corona is of great interest to astronomers. It is here that the flow of charged particles gets accelerated suddenly.
“Today, Parker Solar Probe completed its 11th close approach to the Sun, coming within 5.3 million miles from the Sun. At this distance, the spacecraft experienced temperatures exceeding 1400°F,” NASA said in a tweet.
“The close approach, also known as perihelion, occurred at 10:36am ET with the spacecraft moving over 360,000 miles per hour matching the previous record as the fastest and closest object to the Sun,” the agency said in a second tweet.
The Parker Solar Probe was designed to make repeated and increasingly closer passes to the Sun at a stunning speed of more than 500,000 kilometre per hour to enable it to get inside quickly and get out quickly to avoid heat damage.
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