NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its 18th close approach to the Sun on Dec. 28, matching its own distance record by skimming just about 4.51 million miles (7.26 million kilometers) of the solar surface.
The close approach (known as perihelion) occurred at 7:56 p.m. EST, with Parker Solar Probe moving 394,736 miles per hour (635,266 kilometers per hour) around the Sun – matching another record. The milestone also marked the midway point in the mission’s 18th solar encounter, which began Dec. 24 and continues through Jan. 2.
The spacecraft entered the encounter in good health, with all systems operating normally. Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to check back in with mission operators at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland – where the spacecraft was also designed and built – by sending a status beacon tone on Jan. 5.
Science of the Sun
Thanks to some novel adjustments in spacecraft operations, the Parker Solar Probe team has collected nearly three times the data than it expected before launch – and team members are publishing the results of this work far and wide. More than 690 peer-reviewed science papers use Parker data or are otherwise directly supported by the mission, and the team lists more than 100 peer-reviewed engineering papers describing Parker spacecraft development and operations. All told, these works have been cited more than 15,100 times.
Learn more about Parker science and data availability at https://psp-gateway.jhuapl.edu/.