January 18, 2019

NASA spacecraft breaks record for coming closest to Sun

30 October 2018, 10:41 | Edward Lowe

A NASA probe has gotten closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft, coming within 26.65 million miles of the solar surface - and set the record for the fastest-ever man made object in the process. Parker will be the first spacecraft to fly through the Sun's corona, the outermost part of the star's atmosphere.

Parker Solar Probe sits in a clean room on July 6, 2018, at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, Florida, after the installation of its heat shield.

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For the record, the Sun is about 149.6 million kilometres from Earth.

"It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focussed on our first solar encounter".

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

"It's a proud moment for the team", Project Manager Andy Driesman said, "though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins on October 31." . The spacecraft, which was launched in August with an ambitious goal to "touch the Sun" - not literally, though, - is created to re-think our understanding of the Sun's corona and solar winds. Experts use the network to ping the spacecraft, which then sends back its exact position and speed for calculation. The measurements were last made on October 24, and the information was used to calculate the speed and position in the following days.

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Thanks to this spacecraft, humanity will receive unprecedented observations of its star, opening the door to new answers and understanding of the Sun. "These observations will add key knowledge to NASA's efforts to understand the Sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds", said NASA. It is named after Eugene Parker, who first theorized a stream of particles was flowing away from the Sun about six decades ago.

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