The Parker Solar Probe has begun its fourth close encounter with the Sun. On January 29, it will fly at a distance of about 18.6 million kilometers from the star, setting new records for the proximity of the man-made apparatus to the star and for the speed of movement. This will allow the device to obtain new unique data on the outer layers of the Sun, according to the NASA website.
The Parker probe was launched into space on August 13, 2018. Its task is to measure the main characteristics of the solar wind and the outer layers of the star, as well as to study the electromagnetic fields near the Sun. From strong heating and streams of charged particles and radiation from the star, the apparatus is protected by a cooling system and a heat-shielding shield, under which all scientific instruments are covered.
According to the plan, the process of approaching the star will last seven years: with each new orbit (there are 24 of them in total), the device will approach the star ever closer. The probe has already transmitted a lot of unique data to Earth. In particular, "Parker" showed the movement of the solar wind and helped to understand the acceleration of particles around the Sun, as well as the structure of the corona.
The first three times the probe approached the Sun by almost the same distance (about 24 million kilometers), and on December 26, 2019, it made a gravitational maneuver near Venus to increase its speed. On January 10, the spacecraft made a trajectory correction maneuver, and on January 23, 2020, the probe began its fourth close approach to the Sun.
On January 29, it should fly at a distance of about 18, 6 million kilometers from the star, thereby setting new records for the proximity of the man-made apparatus to the star and for the speed of movement. The probe will collect data using four sets of scientific instruments in a completely autonomous mode. Only after the rendezvous phase is over, he will get in touch and start transmitting data to Earth.
Earlier we talked about how "Parker" saw the elusive dust trail of the asteroid Phaethon. Read more about the goals of this unique mission and the mysteries of the Sun in our article Towards the Solar Wind.