Published: Thu, November 01, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA spacecraft breaks record for coming closest to Sun

NASA spacecraft breaks record for coming closest to Sun

Nasa has confirmed that its Parker Solar Probe is now closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever been.

Helios 2 also set the heliocentric orbit speed record in 1976, hitting a top speed of 246,960 kilometres per hour (153,454 miles per hour), also in April.

PSP's mission is due to last seven years, with the probe set to fly up to 3.8 million miles (6.1 million km) from the sun's surface - seven times closer than any spacecraft before it.

Andy Driesman, Parker project manager, said: "It's been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we've now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history".

U.S. space agency NASA boasted in a statement the Parker Solar Probe will continue to break even more records as it makes numerous approaches to the star.

The $1.5 billion mission will take humanity closer to the Sun than ever before.

In August, the Parker Solar Probe rocketed away from Earth aboard a Delta IV Heavy booster.

The previous record for closest solar approach was set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976, it said.

They will also investigate why the sun's corona is significantly hotter, at several million degrees Fahrenheit, than its surface, which remains at around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. And the sun's powerful gravity will eventually accelerate the probe to a top speed of around 430,000 miles per hour (690,000 km/h), NASA officials have said. "This is a significant moment for us, but we continue to focus on the first maximum closer to the Sun, which should begin on 31 October".

Parker Solar Probe - jointly operated by NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory - went past the record at 2:54 a.m. GMT on Tuesday 30 October (10:54 p.m. Monday 29 October EDT).

Presumably, in the next seven years, the satellite must change around the Sun a few orbits.

On October 31, the day of Halloween, NASA will begin its first so-called solar encounter with the burning star.

Solar probe Parker should study the structure and dynamics of magnetic fields in the sources of the solar wind and the plasma particles around the sun.

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