NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Completes 16th Solar Encounter

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On June 22, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe approached the Sun for the 16th time, at an incredibly close distance of less than 9.6 million kilometers. At this altitude, the temperature of the solar corona reaches a million degrees Celsius. The probe’s 11.4 cm thick thermal shield allows its scientific instruments to operate at a comfortable temperature of around 30 °C and collect unique data that could not otherwise be obtained.

Interestingly, we still do not fully understand the intricacies of the physical processes occurring within the Sun. For instance, even the best telescopes on Earth or in orbit cannot collect complete data about processes in the Sun’s corona. The Parker Probe draws information directly from the source, so to speak, pinpointing the places of origin, directions of movement, and energy levels of charged particles leaving the Sun. During one of its past close flybys of the Sun, the probe was able to see where and how the solar wind is born, revealing the mystery of this phenomenon.

The scientific program of the probe is designed for 24 close approaches to the Sun. Launched in 2018, the probe is expected to gather a multitude of data that will enable scientists to better predict space weather, thereby enhancing the reliability of satellite operations, terrestrial communications, and crewed flights. We are still on our way to Mars, and the success of the mission will also depend on our knowledge of space storms and calms.

In addition to the 24 planned dives into the solar atmosphere, the Parker Solar Probe was also expected to make 7 close flybys near Venus. It has already made five such passes, with two more to go. A flyby near Venus helps the probe perform a gravitational maneuver, including some deceleration. Along the way, the probe collects data on Venus, which will always be valuable. On August 21 this year, Parker will get close to the Morning Star for the sixth time, and its 17th close approach to the Sun is scheduled for September 27.

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Vasyl Kolomiiets
Vasyl Kolomiiets
I'm Vasyl Kolomiiets, a seasoned tech journalist regularly contributing to global publications. Having a profound background in information technologies, I seamlessly blended my technical expertise with my passion for writing, venturing into technology journalism. I've covered a wide range of topics including cutting-edge developments and their impacts on society, contributing to leading tech platforms.

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