Big setback for NASA! Parker Solar Probe crashes! | Tech News

Big setback for NASA! Parker Solar Probe crashes!

In an unexpected event, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe's instrument has crashed. Will it impact NASA's Sun mission?

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Feb 19 2023, 18:13 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
NASA Parker Solar Probe
1/5 The Sun is the largest object in our solar system and is a 4.5 billion-year-old star – a hot glowing ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of the solar system. It is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from Earth, and without its energy, life as we know it could not exist here on our home planet. (Pixabay)
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2/5 The Sun’s volume would need 1.3 million Earths to fill it. Its gravity holds the solar system together, keeping everything from the biggest planets to the smallest bits of debris in orbit around it. The hottest part of the Sun is its core, where temperatures top 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). The Sun’s activity, from its powerful eruptions to the steady stream of charged particles it sends out, influences the nature of space throughout the solar system. (NASA)
NASA Parker Solar Probe
3/5 According to NASA, measuring a “day” on the Sun is complicated because of the way it rotates. It doesn't spin as a single, solid ball. This is because the Sun’s surface isn't solid like Earth's. Instead, the Sun is made of super-hot, electrically charged gas called plasma. This plasma rotates at different speeds on different parts of the Sun. At its equator, the Sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days. At its poles, the Sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days. (NASA)
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4/5 Above the Sun’s surface are its thin chromosphere and the huge corona (crown). This is where we see features such as solar prominences, flares, and coronal mass ejections. The latter two are giant explosions of energy and particles that can reach Earth. (Pixabay)
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5/5 The Sun doesn’t have moons, but eight planets orbit it, at least five dwarf planets, tens of thousands of asteroids, and perhaps three trillion comets and icy bodies. Also, several spacecraft are currently investigating the Sun including Parker Solar Probe, STEREO, Solar Orbiter, SOHO, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Hinode, IRIS, and Wind. (Pixabay)
NASA Parker Solar Probe
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NASA's Parker Solar Probe investigates the Sun's mysteries. But one of its instruments is not working now. (NASA)

NASA's miracle spacecraft that virtually touches the Sun is in trouble. The Parker Probe is designed to make a series of close flybys of the Sun to measure various properties of the solar wind, including its speed, temperature, and magnetic field. Basically, it is important for scientists to study almost everything about the Sun. Sadly, in an unfortunate event, an instrument on NASA's Parker Solar Probe went has crashed. It went offline suddenly on February 12, the space agency informed in a blog post. Considering it is so far away from earth and solutions are possible remotely only, has it jeopardised NASA's Sun mission?

There is good news and bad news! Good one first. The mission team expects Parker Solar Probe to come back online soon. “It happened during the application of an approved flight software patch to the Energetic Particle Instrument (EPI-Hi). An anomaly review board determined the instrument was power cycled prematurely before the new patch was completely loaded,” NASA said in a brief Parker Solar Probe update on February 17. EPI-Hi is one of two particle detectors, which is designed to measure high-energy solar particles.

The bad news is that the instrument will remain off for several weeks as the geometry between the probe and the Sun, and also the solar radio frequency interference will prevent a good uplink. Normal operations are anticipated to resume for the EPI-Hi following the blackout period, in advance of the spacecraft's 15th close approach to the Sun on March 12. Thankfully, the overall spacecraft remains healthy and is functioning as expected.

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About Parker Solar Probe

Parker Solar Probe was launched in 2018 to investigate the Sun's mysteries. Parker Solar Probe used Venus' gravity during seven flybys over almost seven years to progressively get its orbit closer to the Sun in order to unravel the mysteries of the Sun's atmosphere. The spacecraft travels at a massive speed of over 500000kmph, allowing for quick entry and exit to prevent heat damage fro0m the Sun.

Most of the data collected by the Parker Solar Probe is obtained during a daring, super-close flyby of the Sun, where the spacecraft is exposed to high temperatures and accelerated to massive speeds. These flybys occur approximately once every five months. The next upcoming flyby, which will mark the 15th in the mission's history, is set to reach its peak on March 17, Space.com reported.

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First Published Date: 19 Feb, 18:13 IST
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