Published: Tue, October 30, 2018
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This Probe Just Became The Closest Ever Spacecraft to The Sun

This Probe Just Became The Closest Ever Spacecraft to The Sun

Scientists calculated that the spacecraft surpassed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the Sun's surface at about 1:04 p.m. EDT Monday.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe, which launched earlier this year, has set a new record for becoming the closest human-made object to the Sun, the United States space agency announced Monday. Like the Parker Solar Probe, Helios 2 was a probe sent into solar (heliocentric) orbit to study the processes on the Sun.

"The previous record for closest solar approach was set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976".

Parker surpassed the record of 43 million kilometres set by Helios-2 back in 1976.

The probe, launched in August, is now closer to the sun than any spacecraft has ever been.

Parker blasted off on its odyssey atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in the early hours of August 12, 2018. Parker will be the first spacecraft to fly through the Sun's corona, the outermost part of the star's atmosphere. On its closest approach in 2024, the probe will be traveling at approximately 430,000 miles per hour, setting a new speed record for a manmade object.

The space agency explains that Parker's first solar encounter will start on October 31, this resulting in a flight progressively closer to the Sun until it reaches its first "closest" point on November 5.

Over the next seven years it will make 24 close approaches to the sun, ultimately coming within just 3.8 million miles of the surface.

It is also expected to beat the geocentric speed record on its final pass around the Sun by a gobsmacking number, hitting an estimated top speed of 692,017 km/h (430,000 mph) - although that won't be until 2025.

A revolutionary carbon heat shield is protecting it, while the tried-but-true practice of using water inside the craft to cool it down is also being utilised.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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