New records for the Parker Solar Probe

The Parker Solar Probe (PSP), a NASA mission to the outer solar atmosphere ("corona"), was launched on 12 August - see this news item. Following a Venus fly-by on 3 October, its trajectory has gradually brought it closer to the Sun, and the spacecraft is currently within the orbit of Mercury. On 29 October, day 78 of its mission, PSP's distance to our nearest star became less than 43.4 million km, breaking an old record set by the Helios 2 spacecraft on 17 April 1976. PSP's position (30 October) and the trajectory completed so far (green) can be seen in the map underneath (Credits: Johns Hopkins UAPL).

PSP is now on its way to its first rendez-vous with the Sun, planned for 6 November (already next week!). Its distance will then have further reduced, to about 24.8 million km. This is the first "dip" in the graph underneath and, as can be seen, subsequent close-encounters will bring it even closer to a distance of about 7 million km in 2024. As PSP is now also the fastest human-made object, it will continue to set new speed records, reaching 95 km/s on 6 November, and 192 km/s in 2024. The first science results of next week's encounter are expected in December this year.

More information and the latest news at the dedicated PSP website http://parkersolarprobe.jhuapl.edu/ , hosted by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

 

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