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NASA’s solar probe won’t stop smashing records

Published Feb 4th, 2020 11:15PM EST
solar probe
Image: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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In case you hadn’t been keeping up on NASA’s mission to “touch the Sun” with its Parker Solar Probe, let me get you up to speed. The spacecraft, which launched way back in 2018, is looping around our nearest star and getting progressively closer with each pass. Because of the nature of its orbit, it’s also regularly smashing records related to manmade spacecraft.

The probe’s orbit around the Sun takes it closer and closer to the star, and that means it’s also moving faster and faster with each new pass. The records that the probe set back in late 2018 were impressive on their own, but the new figures absolutely dwarf those old numbers.

As CNET notes, the probe has shattered its own records related to distance from the Sun for a spacecraft as well as the highest speed for a manmade object. The newest numbers have the probe moving at an incredible at 244,255 miles per hour, and approaching the Sun at a distance of just 11.6 million miles.

Previously, NASA reported the probe’s speed record at around 153,000 miles per hour at a distance from the Sun of over 26 million miles. As you can see, a lot has changed since late 2018.

As incredible as those numbers are, they’re likely to be shattered many more times in the probe’s planned mission. At present, the spacecraft has spent around a year and a half in space, but its full mission will last nearly seven years.

With each new pass, the probe will get closer and closer, revealing new secrets about our nearest star. Its observations will continue to teach scientists new things about how stars like our Sun work, and perhaps even help scientists predict what the future holds for our volatile neighbor.

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