Parker Solar Probe completes its 20th close approach to the sun 

An artist’s illustration of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun
An artist’s illustration of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. (Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL)

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which has been orbiting the sun since 2018, has completed its 20th close approach (called perihelion) to the sun on June 30, 2024, at 3:47 UTC (11:47 p.m. EDT on June 29), according to NASA.

During its 20th close approach, the spacecraft came at a distance of only 4.51 million miles (7.26 million kilometers) from the solar surface and was moving at a speed of 394,736 miles per hour (635,266 kilometers per hour) around the sun.

After its 20th close approach, NASA’s Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory located in Laurel, Maryland, which designed and manages the spacecraft, confirmed that Parker is in good health and all systems are operating normally on July 2, 2024.

Parker Solar Probe will make its next close approach (i.e., the 21st) on September 30, 2024, according to NASA.

During its 21st close approach, the spacecraft will swing around the sun from the same distance and at the same speed as the 20th close approach.

The spacecraft will make the first of its three final planned closest approaches on December 24, 2024, during its 22nd orbit around the sun.

During its 22nd orbit around the sun, the spacecraft will come at a distance of only 3.8 million miles from the solar surface and will be moving about 430,000 miles per hour.

However, to make its first closest approach on December 24, 2024, the spacecraft will flyby Venus on November 6, 2024, and the gravity of Venus will help the spacecraft change its orbit as well as speed. 

Parker Solar Probe will complete its primary seven-year mission in 2025, when it will complete its 24 orbits around the sun.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 12, 2018, and it became the first spacecraft to fly through the sun’s upper atmosphere, known as the corona, in 2021

The orbits of the spacecraft around the sun are designed in such a way that each orbit brings the spacecraft closer to the sun.

The spacecraft orbits the sun in a highly elliptical orbit. During its close approach, it comes well within the orbit of Mercury, and when it is farthest from the sun, it flies past Venus’s orbit.

Visit here to know the current position of the Parker Solar Probe.  

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Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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