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Powerful Telescopes Trained on Parker Solar Probe’s Latest Swing Around the Sun

The view from Earth: The red line indicates path of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe across the face of the Sun, as seen from Earth, from Feb. 24-27, 2022. The red dots indicate an hour along the trajectory, and the appearance of the path heading into the Sun at right accounts for Earth’s own movement around our star. The image of the Sun was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben/SDO

As NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. It's vision is "To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity."” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completes its latest swing around the Sun, it’s doing so in full view of dozens of other spacecraft and ground-based telescopes.

These powerful instruments can’t actually see Parker itself – the van-sized spacecraft is far too small for visible detection – but they offer from a distance what the probe is sensing close-up, as it samples and analyzes the solar wind and magnetic fields from as close as 5.3 million miles (8.5 million kilometers) from the Sun’s surface.

Occurring at 10:36 a.m. EST (15:36 UTC) on February 25, this was the 11th close approach – or perihelion in the spacecraft’s orbit around the Sun – of 24 planned for Parker Solar Probe’s primary mission. Most of these passes occur while the Sun is between the spacecraft and Earth, blocking any direct lines of sight from home. But every few orbits, the dynamics work out to put the spacecraft in Earth’s view – and the Parker mission team seizes these opportunities to organize broad observation campaigns that not only include telescopes on Earth, but several spacecraft as well.

More than 40 observatories around the globe, including the recently commissioned Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii, among other major installations in the southwestern United States, Europe and Asia, are training their visible, infrared and radio telescopes on the Sun over the several weeks around the perihelion. About a dozen spacecraft, including NASA’s STEREO, Solar Dynamics Observatory, TIMED, and Magnetospheric Multiscale missions, ESA’s and NASA’s Solar Orbiter, ESA’s BepiColombo, the JAXAFormed in 2003, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was born through the merger of three institutions, namely the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL) and the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA). JAXA performs various activities related to aerospace, from basic research in the aerospace field to development and utilization and is responsible for research, technology development, and launch of satellites into orbit, and is involved in advanced missions such as asteroid exploration and possible human exploration of the Moon.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>JAXA-led HinodeThe Hinode Satellite was launched in 2006 and is on a mission to study our Sun. The Hinode satellite includes three science instruments — an X-ray Telescope, a Solar Optical Telescope and an Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Hinode, and even NASA’s MAVEN at MarsMars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. Iron oxide is prevalent in Mars' surface resulting in its reddish color and its nickname "The Red Planet." Mars' name comes from the Roman god of war.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Mars are making simultaneous observations of activity stretching from the Sun to Earth and beyond.

The pass also marked the midway point in the mission’s 11th solar encounter, which began Feb. 20 and continues through March 2. The spacecraft checked in with mission operators at APL – where Parker Solar Probe was designed and built – on Feb. 28 to report that it was healthy and operating as expected.

Most of the data from this encounter will stream back to Earth from March 30 through May 1, though the team will get a glimpse of some readings when the spacecraft sends a limited amount of data this week.

Parker Solar Probe Orbits Sun

Artist’s concept of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. Credit: NASA

Solar Activity Picks Up

Parker Solar Probe is expected to dip back into the Sun’s outer atmosphere – the corona – continuing the solar wind and magnetic field readings it has taken since before it first “touched the Sun” last year.

Along with that data, scientists eagerly anticipate a look at what Parker Solar Probe recorded from the large solar prominence on February 15, 2022, that blasted tons of charged particles in the spacecraft’s direction. Project Scientist Nour Raouafi of the Space Exploration Sector, said it was the largest event Parker Solar Probe has experienced during its first three-and-a-half years in flight.

“The shock from the event hit Parker Solar Probe head-on, but the spacecraft was built to withstand activity just like this – to get data in the most extreme conditions,” he said. “And with the Sun getting more and more active, we can’t wait to see the data that Parker Solar Probe gathers as it gets closer and closer.”

Assisted by a pair of orbit-shaping VenusVenus, the second planet from the sun, is named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the moon, it is the second-brightest natural object in the night sky. Its rotation (243 Earth days) takes longer than its orbit of the Sun (224.7 Earth days). It is sometimes called Earth's "sister planet" because of their similar composition, size, mass, and proximity to the Sun. It has no natural satellites.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Venus flybys in August 2023 and November 2024, Parker Solar Probe will eventually come within 4 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) of the solar surface in December 2024 at speeds topping 430,000 miles per hour.

Source: SciTechDaily