Today, Sept. 1, the spacecraft reaches the point in its orbit closest to the Sun, called perihelion. This is the third perihelion for Parker Solar Probe, and we’re extending science observations this time around!
After Parker Solar Probe’s successful first year in space, the mission team has decided to extend science observations as the spacecraft approaches its third solar encounter.
Parker Solar Probe turned on its four instrument suites on Aug. 16, 2019 — earlier than during its previous two solar encounters, extending the observation period from 11 days to about 35 days.
During the spacecraft’s first two solar encounters, the science instruments were turned on when Parker was about 0.25 AU from the Sun and powered off again at the same distance on the outbound side of the orbit. (One AU, or astronomical unit, is about 93 million miles, the average distance between the Sun and Earth.) For this third solar encounter, the mission team turned on the instruments when the spacecraft was around 0.45 AU from the Sun on the inbound side of its orbit and will turn them off when the spacecraft is about 0.5 AU from the Sun on the outbound side.
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