Parker Solar Probe all set for Venus flyby; breaks speed record

NASA's Parker Solar Probe, aiming to unravel solar mysteries, refines trajectory with a brief maneuver for a successful Venus flyby, breaking speed records en route.

| Updated on: Aug 12 2023, 09:11 IST
Five planet alignment! Watch Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Uranus parade on THIS day
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1/5 The last week of March will bring an exciting time for the astronomy enthusiasts. You will get to see the five planets, as well as the moon, visible in the sky on March 28. It should be noted that the five planets will not be in a literal straight line but in an arc-like structure. (Pixabay)
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2/5 The planets which you will be able to watch on March 28 after sunset include Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, and Uranus, according to reports. (Pixabay)
3/5 As per the information, Jupiter will appear brighter than Mercury while Venus would be the brightest planet among them all. "Venus will be brighter to the upper left of Jupiter and Mercury," a report by LiveMint stated. (Pixabay)
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4/5 Uranus will be the most difficult to find without visual aids. The report further added that Uranus will appear very faintly near Venus and Mars will also appear very high in the sky and will have a noticeable hue. (Pixabay)
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5/5 According to NASA, "The planets orbit around the Sun in approximately the same plane - the ecliptic plane - and thus trace similar paths across our sky”.  (Pixabay)
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Parker Solar Probe's course adjustment sets stage for upcoming Venus encounter. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

In a pivotal operation, NASA's Parker Solar Probe flawlessly executed a brief yet critical maneuver on August 3, 2023. This maneuver, accomplished through the activation of the spacecraft's compact thrusters, ensured that the probe remained precisely on course for its impending sixth Venus flyby, scheduled for August 21, 2023.

Fine-Tuning the Trajectory

The maneuver, lasting a mere 4.5 seconds, resulted in a meticulous adjustment of the probe's trajectory, shifting it by 77 miles. This precise alignment holds significant implications, as it slightly elevated the probe's velocity during its closest approach to Venus, effectively augmenting the flyby's efficiency.

The Parker Solar Probe's utilization of Venus' gravitational force is a key component of its mission. By skillfully employing this gravitational assist, the spacecraft is poised to achieve several vital objectives, including optimizing its solar orbit and refining its velocity in a manner that would not be possible solely through its onboard propulsion systems.

Speed and Distance Records in Sight

Although the maneuver's impact might seem minor, given the Parker Solar Probe's astonishing velocity of approximately 8.7 miles per second, it plays a pivotal role in the mission's success. As the probe approaches the sun's surface at a distance of just 4.5 million miles on September 27, 2023, it is set to break its own records for both speed and solar proximity, reaching an astounding velocity of 394,742 miles per hour.

Since its inception, the Parker Solar Probe has embarked on an awe-inspiring journey through the inner solar system, gathering unprecedented data and insights into the sun's behavior and its profound impact on our solar system. To track the probe's remarkable progress, interested individuals can follow updates on the official Parker Solar Probe website.

NASA's Vision

NASA leads this ambitious mission with the primary goal of comprehensively studying the sun. Equipped with sophisticated instruments and sensors, the Parker Solar Probe continues to collect valuable data, enriching our understanding of the sun's intricate mechanisms, and shedding light on its role within our solar system.

As the Parker Solar Probe presses forward in its scientific odyssey, dedicated scientists and engineers meticulously plan and execute maneuvers, such as the recent trajectory adjustment, to ensure that the probe remains aligned with its scientific objectives. This methodical approach ensures the gathering of essential data and the pursuit of groundbreaking research, driving us closer to unraveling the captivating mysteries of the sun.

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First Published Date: 12 Aug, 09:11 IST