NASA‘s Parker Solar Probe completed its main mission after spending 990 days zipping through the solar system, zipping around Venus, and our home star.
A probe instrument, to be precise.
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The announcement was made Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in New Orleans.
According to Michael Stevens (an astronomer at Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics), the probe had to cross Alfven Point, which is a fuzzy layer in which the sun’s magnetic fields tightly holds the star’s plasma and wind. According to a CfA instrument, Parker had passed the point three more times on April 28. He entered the corona and raised his hand in celebration of the sun.
Parker is an exceptional investigator. It is the fastest laboratory in the world, swinging around Venus as well as the sun and increasing speed as it moves around the planet. It is also the closest human-made object to sun, at 5.3 million miles in November. Mercury is approximately six times farther away at 36 million miles.
It can be dangerous to snuggle up to celebrities. Parker and his team published a study in the spring. The probe was bombarded with space dust and experienced “plasma blasts .”,.”. Parker is shielded from the elements by a state of the art heat shield. However, the CfA instrument which determined Parker had touched sunlight is still exposed.
Parker still has much to learn about sun and plasma, even though the solar squeeze was a major milestone. Parker will continue to swing around the sun collecting data from the corona about the solar wind, plasma, and other aspects of the solar system. He hopes to solve many of the major stellar puzzles. It will be 4.9 million miles from the star in 2023 as it approaches closer. If it survives plasma explosions, it will approach the star three years hence, at 4.3 million miles.