The Parker Solar Probe is on its second solar encounter of the sun. For several days during the flyby, the probe will be out of communications with the Earth.
Second Solar Encounter
On March 30, the Parker Solar Probe began the second solar encounter phase of its mission. By April 4 it is expected to make its closest approach, or perihelion, of 15 million miles from the surface of the sun, a distance that is a little over half the 1976 record set by Helios 2 at 27 million miles.
During the encounter, all the four instruments aboard the Parker Solar Probe will be collecting data from the sun’s corona, during which its communication with Earth will be cut off so that it can focus on keeping its Thermal Protection System toward the sun, than keeping its transmitter toward the Earth.
The data that the probe will collect during this flyby will be sent back to Earth this spring within a period of several weeks.
Parker Solar Probe
NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission is aimed to revolutionize what we understand about the sun. Its main science mission is to trace how energy moves from corona, and what causes solar wind and energetic particles to accelerate.
The Parker Solar Probe will travel closer to the sun’s atmosphere than any probe has ever done before, facing brutal heat and radiation. As such, the probe is equipped with a 4.5-inch thick carbon-composite shield that will help it withstand up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit of heat.
As brutal as the conditions that the Parker Solar Probe will have to face, it will give humanity the chance to study a star closely, which, in a way also gives us an idea about the other stars in the universe. It will also give scientists the opportunity to study Earth’s space environment, study the changes in it, and see how it may affect life and technology on the planet.
Over the course of seven years, the Parker Solar Probe is expected to use Venus’s gravity for seven flybys, slowly bringing its orbit closer to the sun.