NASA’S Parker Solar Probe has made its first orbit of our star, Sun and getting ready for the second.
Launched on August 12, 2018, the probe has reached its aphelion, the point on its orbit furthest from the Sun, on January 19, 161 days after it was launched from Cape Canaveral.
Its next close approach, or perihelion, will be in April. Just as in November last year, Parker will get pretty close to the Sun, about 15 million miles away.
The probe started full operations on January 1 and has already delivered more than 17 gigabits of science data via the Deep Space Network to waiting researchers on Earth.
When it’s nearby once more, the probe will deploy its four instrument suites to help answer questions regarding probably the most puzzling aspects of our Sun.
Parker Solar Probe project manager Andy Driesman said, “It’s been an illuminating and fascinating first orbit. We’ve learned a lot about how the spacecraft operates and reacts to the solar environment, and I’m proud to say the team’s projections have been very accurate.”
Project scientist Nour Raouafi said, “We’ve always said that we don’t know what to expect until we look at the data. The data we have received hints at many new things that we’ve not seen before and at potential new discoveries. Parker Solar Probe is delivering on the mission’s promise of revealing the mysteries of our Sun.”
On the whole, Parker will total 24 planned orbits of the Sun, making its nearest way to deal with our star in 2024, when it will be simply 3.83 million miles from its surface.
The Parker Solar Probe team is not only focused on analyzing the science data but also preparing for the second solar encounter, which will take place in about two months.