On October 29, Parker Solar Probe reached a distance of 42.6 million kilometers from the Sun, the closest to any object created by man for the solar system. Just a few days later, on November 6, the spacecraft approached the Sun, reaching a point in the present orbit known as perihelion. The ship was moving at 343,000 kilometers per hour, destroying the record for the fastest spacecraft. The previous record was held by the Juno spacecraft during the last dive at Jupiter at 266,000 kilometers per hour.
The space ship is just beginning. After a series of orbits, it will become faster and faster, diving deeper into the crown in each circumference. At the first close approach, the probe was within 24 million kilometers of the Sun. Due to the intense radio emission from the Sun, the spacecraft should remain out of the Earth's range for several days. Autonomous on-board systems are expected to keep the ship moving while it is not in contact with the home.
Secrets of the crown
The probe is on the mission to unlock the secrets of the solar crown. This is part of the Sun that is still visible during the solar eclipse. High energy particles of the crown are so hot that the temperatures are higher than the surface of the Sun. The spacecraft will be exposed to temperatures above one million degrees Celsius. The protection of sensitive instruments on the deck is 4.5 inches thick and 2.4 m wide. The shield consists of a composite carbon foam placed between two carbon plates. The side of the shield facing the sun has a coating of white ceramic paint that reflects as much sunlight as possible. Instruments on board will remain at a relatively cool 30 degrees Celsius thanks to the dial.
There are, however, some instruments that look on the screen, such as antennas and molecules that collect the Faraday cup. They are necessary for the observation. The solar panels are also located behind the shield at an angle. Only a small part of the solar panels are exposed to the sun and they are cooled internally by the water and the radiator. Sensors along the panels ensure that the panels are not overexposed to the Sun and automatically change the position of the spacecraft if the panels can be damaged.
The solar wind
While scientists know that the crown is much hotter than the surface of the Sun, they do not know exactly why this is happening. One of the basic mysteries that Solar Park hopes to solve is to understand exactly why the crown is so hot. The probe will also investigate the phenomenon of the solar wind – a stream of high energy particles that move up to the orbit of Neptune. These particles cause auroras on Earth when they react with the atmosphere. Observations from the previous spacecraft indicate two types of solar wind – there is a slow stream and a fast stream.
Mariner 2 identified the source of a fast stream as relatively cooler areas on the surface of the Sun, known as coronal holes, which should not be confused with sunspots. The source of the particles in the free stream is not yet known. This is another mystery of the crown that Parker Solar Probe hopes to unlock.
The problem with solar wind research so far has been that most of the observations come from instruments on Earth or near the Earth. Parker Solar Probe, repeatedly diving in the crown itself, will allow scientists to get closer to the Sun and get to know it better.
The Parker Solar Probe is the first space probe NASA, whose name comes from a living person. Initially, the spacecraft was called Solar Probe Plus, but it was renamed in honor of Parker. Parker developed a theory in 1958 that predicted the existence of solar wind. According to this theory, there is so much heat in the crown that high energy particles escape from the huge gravity of the Sun and flow outside to the Solar System. This solar wind affects all planets in the solar system, so scientists want to understand it better. Parker Solar is the first mission of humanity to touch the stars.
<! – commented @ July 6, 2016
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