NASA’s Solar Probe Completes Successful Fly-by of the Sun

Mar, 2021 - By SMI

NASA’s Solar Probe Completes Successful Fly-by of the Sun

The Parker Solar Probe has achieved yet another day to start off the new year, and this time it is a close fly-by of the Sun.

The solar probe was launched in 2018 with a mission of observing the outer corona of the sun. The year ahead is going to be a busy one for the spacecraft as it is scheduled to carry out multiple close approaches of the sun as well as two fly-bys of Venus. Moreover, it will have to conduct some important maneuvers in order to collect additional science observations. In September 2020, the probe had made a close approach to the sun, and despite the increasing sun’s activity in 2020 due to the onset of the new solar cycle (solar cycle 25) which kicked off early last year. This meant that the Earth’s star is slow to wake up than usual and it only released the first massive flare in 3 years in November.

The solar cycle administers the sun’s activity as well as the star’s influence on and around, not just the Earth, but across the solar system. The sun’s activity determines he appearance of the sunspots on its surface. For instance, if the sun is very active, the sunspots will be a lot darker. Moreover, these sunspots are the origin of huge coronal mass discharges, or blasts of solar plasma. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory confirmed that the spacecraft successfully made its closest approach to the star on 17 January 2021 at 5:30 p.m. GMT. The spacecraft was at a distance of 13.5 million kilometers from the surface of the sun and was travelling at a speed of around 470,000 kilometers per hour. On 20 February 2021, the Parker Solar Probe will cruise past Venus and on 29 April 2021, it will attempt another close fly-by of the Sun. The U.S.-European Solar Orbiter is also slated to commence scientific experiments later this year.

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