Nasa spacecraft sets record for closest approach to sun

The probe is named in honour of astrophysicist Dr Eugene Parker

The probe is named in honour of astrophysicist Dr Eugene Parker

It happened on October 29, when Parker crossed the mark of 42.48 million kilometers to the Sun.

And it will keep getting closer to the sun until it flies through the corona, or outer atmosphere, for the first time next week, passing within 24 million kilometres of the solar surface.

The space agency said the probe was well on its way to break the 153,454 miles per hour milestone set by the Helios 2 in April 1976.

The previous record was set by the German-American collaboration Helios 2 in April 1976.

Nasa's ambitious Solar Parker Probe (PSP) has just got closer to the solar surface than any other spacecraft in history. "We are proud of this event, although we continue to focus on our first solar meeting, which starts on 31 October", says project Manager Andy Driesman.

Seven hours later the probe had reached a speed of 69.72 km/s (kilometres per second, which translates to around 250,992 km/h or 155,959 mph) relative to the Sun.

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Going forward, $1.5 billion mission of Parker Solar Probe which got a liftoff in Florida in August 12 is set to break all previous records. The speed of sound is 761.2 miles per hour.

Parker Solar Probe's speed and position were calculated using DSN measurements made on October 24, and the team used that information along with known orbital forces to calculate the spacecraft's speed and position from that point on.

The DSN sends a signal to the spacecraft, which then retransmits it back to the DSN, allowing the team to determine the spacecraft's speed and position based on the timing and characteristics of the signal.

The solar probe's instruments will detect and measure the movement of electrons, protons and ions that make up the corona and the solar winds generated there. On the eve of the Parker Solar Probe showed the Earth from a distance of 43 million kilometers. Eric Christian, a space scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told UPI last month ahead of the probe's launch.

Scientists want to answer phenomena which have puzzled researchers for decades, including the causes behind the acceleration of solar winds and geomagnetic storms. And even though the solar wind is invisible, we can see it encircling the poles as the aurora, which are lovely - but reveal the enormous amount of energy and particles that cascade into our atmosphere.

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