The Warmth of the Sun

The Parker Solar Probe is alive and well after skimming by the Sun at just 25 million km from the Sun’s surface. At its perihelion on 5 November, the spacecraft reached a top speed of almost 343,000 km/h, setting a new record for spacecraft speed. On subsequent orbits the spacecraft will repeatedly break its own speed record as it draws closer to the Sun and the its speed increases at perihelion.

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab received the status beacon from the spacecraft at 21:46 UTC on the 7th indicating that the Probe is operating well with all instruments running and collecting science data and, if there were any minor issues, they were resolved autonomously by the spacecraft.

At perihelion the intense sunlight heated the Sun-facing side of the spacecraft’s Thermal Protection System to almost 450 C, hot enough to melt solder, but the spacecraft instruments and systems protected by the heat shield were generally kept in the around 25 C, a comfortable shirt-sleeve temperature. On the closet approach, the thermal shield will be exposed to a temperature around 1400 C.

It will be several weeks after the end of the solar encounter phase before the science data begins downlinking to Earth.

Video Credits: NASA / JHUAPL

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