NASA’s Parker Solar Probe broke its own speed record, accelerating to speeds of up to 101 miles per second, or more than 364,000 miles per hour, as it orbited the sun.
To put its speed in perspective, if you set off from New York traveling at that speed, you’ll travel 2,446 miles to Los Angeles in just over 24 seconds, set off again from New York, cross the Atlantic and travel to London in just over half a minute.
This was the probe’s tenth pass of the Sun and the speed records weren’t the only ones broken during this flight. The Parker Solar Probe has broken another record by getting closer to our star than any vehicle ever built by mankind. The Sun’s last pass made it within just 5.3 million miles of our star’s surface.
Increase vehicle speed thanks to Corridors near Venus, during which it received “gravitational assistance” from the second planet from the Sun. But the Parker Solar Probe’s job isn’t just to set the speed and distance and then break it again.
In its most recent segment, one of the spacecraft’s primary science missions will be to observe the properties of the solar wind, streams of charged particles emanating from the sun’s upper atmosphere, also known as the corona.
One of the main goals of Parker, which was launched in August 2018 and was first reached the sun In January 2019, an ancient mystery surrounding the corona by flying through it is investigated.
One of the most intriguing things about our stars is the fact that the corona is hotter than its surface, or photosphere, 100 miles below. Conventional reasoning suggests that the deeper we go into the star the more we probe that it should get hotter, so the reason its outer layers are hotter than its surface is a pressing concern and is something the Parker Solar Probe could unlock.
The craft also made some other unexpected discoveries. In one of these current flybys, you’ll investigate why there are currently high levels of dust near the sun.
“What’s exciting about this is that it greatly improves our understanding of the deeper regions of our heliosphere, giving us insight into an environment that has hitherto been a complete mystery,” said Noor Al Rawafi, Parker Solar Probe scientist at Johns Hopkins. Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland.
Although the Parker Solar Probe does not carry a dust detector, it can detect dust through the plasma produced when dust grains eject it at high speeds as it passes through space. The resulting electrical charges are then detected by several sensors on the probe’s FIELDS instrument, which is designed to measure electric and magnetic fields near the sun.
This helps assess the properties of dust in a region of the solar system that no spacecraft has previously overtaken during its record-breaking mission.
Records set by Parker Solar Probe may be broken again soon. In August 2023 and November 2024 the plane will make two more flights from Venus to build his speed.
In December 2024, these speed boosts will cause the Parker Solar Probe to fly over the sun at a whopping 430,000 miles per hour. It will also get closer than ever to the Sun, passing within 4 miles of our star.