Telescopes turn on Parker Solar Probe’s approach to the sun

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that studies the sun and made history last year when it flew through the sun’s corona, has made another orbit around the sun. And this time it was viewed by other spacecraft as well as ground-based telescopes.

Missions like Parker get close to the sun by performing a series of flybys of other planets. This spacecraft makes passes around Venus and uses the planet’s gravity to adjust its orbit as it heads back toward the sun. Over the course of seven Venus flights, it will get closer and closer to the sun until it reaches its final altitude and comes within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface in December 2024.

The view from Earth: The red line indicates the path of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe over the surface of the sun, as seen from Earth, from February 24-27, 2022. The red dots indicate an hour along the trajectory, and the appearance of the path leading to the right to the sun explains the Earth’s own motion around our star. The image of the sun was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben/SDO

Parker’s most recent approach to the sun was on February 25, and was the 11th of a planned 24 approach. But this particular approach is special because it is visible from Earth. “Most of these passes take place while the sun is between the spacecraft and Earth, blocking direct lines of sight from home,” NASA explains in a blog post. “But every few orbits, the dynamics work to put the spacecraft in view of Earth — and Parker’s mission team is seizing these opportunities to organize broad-based observation campaigns that include not only telescopes on Earth, but several spacecraft as well.”

This approach was observed by more than 40 different observatories, including the brand new Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii. Other observatories also tuned and observed in the visible light, infrared and radio wavelengths. These were supported by observations from several spacecraft, including NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and the NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter.

These observers will not be able to see Parker, who is too small to detect. But they’ll be able to get a bigger picture, to see how the fluctuations of the sun Parker sees up close ripple to have effects on the rest of the solar system. Once Parker sends back his data, it can be compared with data collected by the other observatories to see how solar winds propagate on a larger scale.

Parker also recently observed another major event up close, when it captured data from a large solar prominence on Feb. 15. get data in the most extreme conditions,” says project scientist Nour Raouafi of the Space Exploration Sector. “And with the sun becoming more active, we can’t wait to see the data Parker Solar Probe collects as it gets closer and closer.”

Leave a Comment