ILLUSTRATION. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Becomes a Spacecraft That Touches the Sun.
Writer: Arif Budianto
KONTAN.CO.ID – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is the first spacecraft to touch the sun. The spacecraft, which has been probing the Sun for a long time, is at its closest of 5.3 million miles.
Recently, history noted that NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft was the first to touch the Sun. Quote from CNET, The spacecraft has spent 990 days speeding through the solar system until it reaches its mission’s main goal, which is to “touch the sun”.
“Touching the sun” is not actually the spacecraft is touching the surface of the Sun, but is in the closest distance.
The first Parker Solar Probe, first launched on August 12, 2018, is known to have reached a critical threshold and is inside the solar corona where the temperature reaches 3 million degrees Fahrenheit.
The information is released in the announcement made at the annual meeting American Geophysical Union in New Orleans, United States, Tuesday (14/12/2021).
An astronomer named Michael Stevens of Center for Astrophysics (CfA), Harvard and Smithsonian, explained that the probe must traverse the Alfven point, the hazy layer where the sun’s magnetic field holds back stellar plasma and strong winds.
An instrument on board the Parker Solar Probe (developed by CfA) determined that the spacecraft had passed the point three times on April 28, entered the corona and shone on the sun.
Corona is the upper atmosphere of the Sun.
Parker Solar Probe itself is indeed on a mission to investigate the outer corona of the Sun. The design of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft mission uses gravity to swing Venus and the sun and gather velocity across their orbits.
Interestingly, this is the closest man-made object to the sun, at least for now. Where in November puts it within 5.3 million miles from the Sun.
For reference, Mercury is about six times as far from the sun, which is 36 million miles.
Due to its extreme mission, the Parker Solar Probe has a state-of-the-art heat shield that prevents it from overheating.
This is not the end of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft mission. In 2023, this spacecraft will be getting closer to within 4.9 million miles.
As long as it can survive the plasma explosion, three years later it will return to its closest approach of 4.3 million miles.
According to NASA, this trip to the Sun is to unlock the mysteries that exist in the atmosphere. The mission could also make an important contribution to forecasting changes in Earth’s space environment that affect life and technology on Earth.
Studying the Sun as a source of light and heat for Earth’s life can also help us understand how life on Earth developed. That’s one of the few things that can be learned from studying the Sun, as stated by NASA.