The Parker Solar Probe is ready to smash more cosmic records as it prepares to make its closest ever approach to the sun.
The spacecraft’s second closest approach, the perihelion is expected to take place on April 4, 2019.
Image: Parker Solar Probe’s position, speed and round-trip light time as of Jan. 28, 2019. Track the spacecraft online. Image Credit: NASA.
161 days have gone by since the Parker Solar Probe was launched into space, and scientists report the space probe has successfully orbited the sun for the first time.
Now, the Parker Solar Probe is set to smash new records as it gears up to start it second orbit around the sun, which will take the spacecraft closer to the sun than ever before.
As reported by NASA, the spacecraft has begun the second of a total of twenty-four planned orbits, which will take the spacecraft closer to the sun like never before.
“It’s been an illuminating and fascinating first orbit,” said Andy Driesman, Project Manager at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
“We’ve learned a lot about how the spacecraft operates and reacts to the solar environment, and I’m proud to say the team’s projections have been very accurate,” Driesman added.
During its first orbit around the sun, the spacecraft gathered a plethora of scientific data that will help experts understand how our sun functions.
Data gathered by the spacecraft is expected to shed light on how solar particles and solar material are accelerated out into space at such extreme speeds, and how the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, is much hotter than its surface below.
According to reports, the Parker Space Probe has been delivering data gathered via the Deep Space Network, and to date, more than 17 gigabits of science data has been downloaded by NASA mission scientist.
In fact, the spacecraft gathered so much data that scientists expect the full data set of its first orbit around the sun will be downloaded by April of 2019.
“We’ve always said that we don’t know what to expect until we look at the data,” said Project Scientist Nour Raouafi, also of APL.
“The data we have received hints at many new things that we’ve not seen before and at potential new discoveries. Parker Solar Probe is delivering on the mission’s promise of revealing the mysteries of our Sun.”
While gathering the scientific data that’s being transmitted by the spacecraft, mission scientists are preparing for the ‘second solar encounter’ expected to take place in about two months.
In addition to unpreceded scientific data, we expect to see new, fresh images snapped by the spacecraft from ‘inside’ the sun’s atmosphere.