Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument saw the solar wind streaming past during the spacecraft’s
first solar encounter in November 2018. Credits: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is celebrating the completion of two very productive solar orbit trips around
the sun on the Year 1 anniversary of its launch on Aug. 12, 2018, Earth. In that same time Earth had made only a
single trip around the Sun.
Parker is now well into its 3rd high speed orbit around our sun and traveling towards another close solar approach in
less than two weeks – on Sept. 1, 2019.
Here are the details from NASA:
Parker Solar Probe is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the solar wind — the constant outflow of
particles and magnetic fields from the Sun — in 1958. Parker Solar Probe is the first NASA mission to be named for a living person.
space with Eugene Parker, after whom the mission is named. In 1958, Parker published the first scientific paper theorizing the existence of the solar wind, now studied by the spacecraft that bears his name. Credits: University of Chicago
“We’re very happy,” said Nicky Fox, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington,
D.C. “We’ve managed to bring down at least twice as much data as we originally suspected we’d get from those first two perihelion passes.”
The spacecraft carries four suites of scientific instruments to gather data on the particles, solar wind plasma, electric and magnetic fields, solar radio emission, and structures in the Sun’s hot outer atmosphere, the corona. This information will help scientists unravel the physics driving the extreme temperatures in the corona — which is counterintuitively hotter than the solar surface below — and the mechanisms that drive particles and plasma out into the solar system.
Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument captures images of solar wind structures as they stream out from the Sun, allowing
scientists to connect them with Parker’s in situ measurements from its other instruments.
This video, which spans Nov. 6-10, 2018, combines views from both WISPR telescopes during Parker Solar Probe’s first solar
encounter. The Sun is out of frame past the combined image’s left side, so the solar wind flows from left to right past the view of the telescopes. The bright structure near the center of the left edge is what’s known as a streamer — a relatively dense, slow flow of solar wind coming from the Sun — originating from near the Sun’s equator.
The video appears to speed up and slow down throughout the movie because of the ways data is stored at different points in
Parker Solar Probe’s orbit. Near perihelion, the closest approach to the Sun, the spacecraft stores more images — and more frames for a given section make the video appear to slow down. These images have been calibrated and processed to remove background noise.
The Milky Way’s galactic center is visible on the right side of the video. The planet visible on the left is Mercury. The
thin white streaks in the image are particles of dust passing in front of WISPR’s cameras.
The mission team is currently in the process of analyzing data from Parker Solar Probe’s first two orbits, which will be
released to the public in 2019.
“The data we’re seeing from Parker Solar Probe’s instruments is showing us details about solar structures and processes that we have never seen before,” said Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which built and operates the mission for NASA. “Flying close to the Sun — a very dangerous environment — is the only way to obtain this data, and the spacecraft is performing with flying colors.”
hours of the morning, Aug. 12 – and delivered the car sized spacecraft to its intended trajectory towards Venus and the Sun.
The 23-story tall triple barreled United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket successfully launched at 3:31 a.m. EDT
Aug. 12 from the Florida Space Coast and put on a brilliant display of fire power with 2.1 million pounds of thrust spewing forth from the trio of liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen RS-68A main engines that quickly turned night into day a few hours before the natural sunrise under nearly cloud-free skies.
The mission will conduct 7 Venus flyby’s to set up 24 perihelion close encounters with the sun through 2024. The Venus
flyby’s will precisely set its trajectory toward the Sun and slow the probe down instead of speeding it up.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Opportunity and up close clean room and launch pad views. Plus brief presentation
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