Nasas Parker Solar Probe breaks record, reaches closest ever to the sun

An artist's impression of the probe near the sun Pic NASA

An artist's impression of the probe near the sun Pic NASA

"The current record for heliocentric speed is 153,454 miles (246,960 kilometers) per hour, set by Helios 2 in April 1976". In all, the craft will travel almost 90 million miles, passing within Mercury's orbit and within 3.83 million miles of the sun's atmosphere, which is expected in 2024.

"It's been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we've now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history", said Project Manager Andy Driesman.

Seven hours later the probe had reached a speed of 69.72 km/s (kilometres per second, which translates to around 250,992 km/h or 155,959 mph) relative to the Sun. Along with this, gaining momentum from the sun's powerful gravity, the probe will accelerate at a top speed of close to 690,000 km/hr.

In August, the Parker Solar Probe rocketed away from Earth aboard a Delta IV Heavy booster.

Not content with just being the closest ever probe to the Sun, NASA expected the spacecraft to break a speed record on Tuesday night as well.

They will also investigate why the sun's corona is significantly hotter, at several million degrees Fahrenheit, than its surface, which remains at around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists expect Parker to reach a peak speed of nearly 190km/s (690,000km/h; 428,700mph) - but it will happen sometime in 2025.

The Sun-bound mission is expected to last around seven years, during which the probe will orbit the planet Venus to get closer to the Sun.

Solar probe Solar Probe Parker approached the Sun at a record close distance.

The spacecraft's team measures its precise speed and position using NASA's Deep Space Network, which sends signals to the spacecraft.

To face the heat of almost 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the spacecraft is well protected by a special 4.5-inch thick carbon-composite shield.

"It's a proud moment for the team, though we remain focussed on our first solar encounter".

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.

The Parker Solar Probe is the first NASA aircraft to be named after a living astrophysicist; 91-year-old Eugene Parker, who proposed the notion of solar wind.

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