A RUGGED Nasa probe has soared across space and “touched the Sun” in a truly astronomical feat.
The 300,000mph Parker Solar Probe will get even closer – and is officially the fastest man-made object ever created.
There are many different ways to “touch” the Sun: the star is multi-layered, and its effects extend far from the core.
In this case, the probe has glanced the Sun’s toasty outer atmosphere.
It got as close as around 6million miles from Earth’s host star – but that’s not the only record.
The probe has also become the fastest man-made object, travelling at a mind-blowing 330,000mph.
That breaks its own record set in February last year, when the probe achieved speeds of 244,255mph.
It’s a breakneck speed – the probe could circumnavigate Earth in under five minutes, and reach the Moon in less than an hour.
Nasa’s probe is using an orbit that takes it around Venus, using the planet’s gravity to bring it ever closer to the Sun.
With each pass, the probe’s total speed is ramping up.
Nasa’s hardy craft will eventually approach as close as 4.3million miles.
And it will ultimately reach speeds of up to 430,000mph – around 0.064% the speed of light.
During the trip, the probe will endure temperatures of 1,300C.
The Sun – all the facts you need to know
What is it, why does it exist, and why is it so ruddy hot all the time?
- The Sun is a huge star that lives at the centre of our solar system
- It’s a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, and provides most of the energy for life on Earth
- It measures a staggering 865,000 miles across – making it 109 times bigger than Earth
- But its weight is 330,000 times that of Earth, and accounts for almost all of the mass in the Solar System
- The Sun is mostly made up of hydrogen (73%), helium (25%) and then a number of other elements like oyxgen, carbon and iron
- Its surface temperature is around 5,505C
- Scientists describe the Sun as being “middle-aged”
- The Sun formed 4.6billion years ago, and tt’s been in its current state for around four billion years
- It’s expected that it will remain stable for another five billion years
- It doesn’t have enough mass to explode as a supernova
- Instead, we expect it to turn a hulking red giant
- During this phase, it will be so big that it will engulf Mercury, Venus and Earth
- Eventually it will turn into an incredibly hot white dwarf, and will stay that way for trillions of years
The Parker Solar Probe is one of Nasa’s most exciting missions.
It launched back in 2018, tasked with observing the outer corona of the Sun – from a closer viewpoint than any probe before.
Nasa has tracked eight passes around the Sun, of an expected 24 trips.
The mission is due to end in 2025, but this could be extended if Nasa chooses.
Eventually, it’s possible that the probe will slowly spiral into the Sun, ultimately destroying the craft.
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In other news, Nasa’s Perseverance rover has created breathable oxygen.
Nasa recently completed the first controlled flight on another planet following the lift-off of its Mars helicopter-drone, Ingenuity.
Nasa has baffled space fans by releasing an image of what appears to be a rainbow on Mars.
And, the mystery surrounding what looks like giant spiders on the surface of Mars may finally have been solved.
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