On March 17th, 2023, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its 15th close approach to the Sun. It comes within 5.3 million miles close to the scorching solar surface.
Nour Raouafi, Parker’s project scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, said, “When we can observe the same solar phenomena as they travel from the Sun out into the solar system, we have a notable opportunity to see how structures like the solar wind change as they move through time and space. These additional eyes on the Sun and the inner heliosphere help us see the bigger picture, beyond what Parker can do alone.”
During the perihelion, the spacecraft traveled 364,619 miles per hour, fast enough to fly from New York to Tokyo in just over a minute.
Because Earth was in a prime position to view Parker’s latest encounter, the science community initiated a ground-based observation campaign. More than 40 observatories in the United States, Europe, and Asia trained their visible, infrared, and radio telescopes on the Sun for several weeks around Parker’s encounter.
The shape of Parker’s most recent orbit also put it in the direct line of sight of Earth and a number of other Sun-observing spacecraft during its close encounter, creating exceptional scientific opportunities for joint ground- and space-based investigations.
As intended, the high-energy Energetic Particle Instrument (EPI-Hi) was shut down by Parker Solar Probe‘s autonomy system on February 13 when the instrument had an early power cycle before the end of a software patch upload. On March 10, in advance of Solar Encounter 15, the instrument and Parker Mission Operations teams successfully restored the instrument configuration after an anomaly recovery plan.
The spacecraft entered the encounter in good health, with all systems operating normally.