NASA spacecraft breaks record for coming closest to Sun

The probe is named in honour of astrophysicist Dr Eugene Parker

The probe is named in honour of astrophysicist Dr Eugene Parker

They will also investigate why the sun's corona is significantly hotter, at several million degrees Fahrenheit, than its surface, which remains at around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

NASA's historic Parker Solar Probe - enroute to the Sun to unravel its mysteries - has become the closest spacecraft to it. The record was previously held by the Helios 2 in 1976, which reached a heliocentric (or sun-relative) speed of 153,454 miles per hour.

In addition, in the coming days, the probe should set another record, becoming the fastest ship in the history of space exploration.

These observations will add key knowledge to NASA's efforts to understand the Sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds, it said. After that, the probe will burn up in the sunlight. Its final close approach in 2025 is expected to get within 3.83 million miles of the flaming gaseous orb.

NASA launched the exploration probe to the Sun less than 80 days ago, on August 12, on a first of its kind mission to study the Sun's corona. Scientists expect Parker to reach a peak speed of nearly 190km/s (690,000km/h; 428,700mph) - but it will happen sometime in 2025.

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Before that, in the near spacecraft, which landed on this star, was "Helios-2", in 1976. Over the course of next seven years, the spacecraft will study our star during 24 close flybys, getting close with each encounter. According to NASA, its team is able to determine these things using the spacecraft's data delivered over the Deep Space Network. Now it is preparing to encounter the Sun on Wednesday, 31 October.

Tomorrow, the probe will begin the observation phase of its orbit, turning its instruments - protected by a 4.5-inch-thick (11.43 cm) carbon-composite heat shield - towards the Sun.

After that, the space probe will gradually creep closer to the Sun's surface until it reaches its closest possible distance on November 5.

The Parker Solar Probe is the first NASA aircraft to be named after a living astrophysicist; 91-year-old Eugene Parker, who proposed the notion of solar wind.

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