Solar Sizzler: NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Zips by Sun at 394,736 MPH

Parker Solar Probe Close to Sun

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe achieved a significant milestone by matching its distance record, coming 4.51 million miles close to the Sun during its 19th approach. The spacecraft, which confirmed its good health post-encounter, is on track for a record-breaking close approach on December 24, following a final gravity assist from Venus. Credit: NASA GSFC/CIL/Brian Monroe

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe continues its record-setting journey, gearing up for an even closer encounter with the Sun later this year.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its 19th close approach to the Sun on March 30, matching its own distance record by coming about 4.51 million miles (7.26 million kilometers) from the solar surface.

The close approach (known as perihelion) occurred at 2:21 UTC (10:21 EDT), March 29, with Parker Solar Probe moving 394,736 miles per hour (635,266 kilometers per hour) around the Sun – again equaling its own record. The spacecraft checked in on April 2 with mission operators at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, where the spacecraft was also designed and built, with a beacon tone indicating it was in good health and all systems were operating normally.

Parker Solar Probe’s 19th orbit included a perihelion that brought the spacecraft within 4.51 million miles of the Sun. Animation tracing the path of Parker Solar Probe along its 19th orbit. Locations of the planets are approximate; spacecraft speed along the traced path is not to scale. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

The milestone also marked the midway point in the mission’s 19th solar encounter, which began on March 25 and continued through April 4.

Parker is still on track to make its closest approach on December 24. At that point, with its orbit shaped by the mission’s final Venus gravity assist-flyby on November 6, the spacecraft will zoom just 3.8 million miles from the solar surface, moving about 430,000 miles per hour.

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