Parker Solar Probe of NASA Makes 20th Close Approach to the Sun

This incredible accomplishment highlights the probe’s sturdy construction and the careful preparation that went into its mission to discover the sun’s outer atmosphere.

2018 saw the launch of the Parker Solar Probe, which is still pushing the envelope in solar exploration and supplying priceless data that will improve our knowledge of the sun and its effects on the solar system.

Recurring Record and Mission Accomplishments

The Parker Solar Probe (PSP) matched its previous distance record on June 30, 2024, coming within 4.51 million miles (7.26 million kilometers) of the solar surface. The spacecraft traveled at an incredible 394,736 miles per hour (635,266 kilometers per hour) during this perihelion.

The probe’s 20th solar encounter, which started on June 25 and will last until July 5, is halfway done with this near approach. Following the near approach, the mission team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where the spacecraft was conceived and manufactured, verified that the spacecraft is in good health and that all systems are operating as intended. This accomplishment demonstrates the robustness of the probe as well as the efficiency of the mission’s planning and implementation.

The fact that the Parker Solar Probe has broken numerous records shows how well the mission handled the challenging circumstances close to the sun. The probe is able to gather vital information about the sun’s corona, or outermost region of atmosphere, at each near approach, or perihelion.

Because it holds the key to understanding solar winds and space weather phenomena, which can have significant repercussions on Earth, scientists are especially interested in this region. With its unusually close approach to the sun, the Parker Solar Probe offers a wealth of new information about the mechanics underlying these occurrences.

Mission Goals of the Parker Solar Probe

Known as the corona, the uppermost layer of the solar environment, is the target of the 2018 Parker Solar Probe mission. Through comprehending the mechanisms at work in the corona, researchers hope to learn more about solar winds and potentially Earth-affecting space weather events.

Much hotter than the surface below, the corona of the sun experiences temperature spikes up to millions of degrees. The Parker Solar Probe is working to solve some of the riddles surrounding this perplexing temperature inversion.

The probe uses a series of gravitational maneuvers close to Venus to accomplish its purpose, getting closer to the sun with each orbit. These movements are essential for directing the probe’s path, enabling it to “dive” into the corona and gather important information.

The advanced instruments on board the probe are made to endure the harsh radiation and temperature conditions that are present in the vicinity of the sun. This allows the probe to obtain precise measurements of the magnetic fields, plasma, and energetic particles in the corona as well as high-resolution photographs.

On September 30, 2024, the Parker Solar Probe is scheduled to fly at the same speed and distance as it makes another close encounter to the sun. The final flyby of Venus by the probe is scheduled for November 6, 2024, marking a vital phase of the mission.

By doing this, the probe will be positioned for December 24, 2024, when it will make its closest planned approach to the sun, coming within 3.8 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) of the solar surface. The probe is predicted to reach speeds of about 430,000 miles per hour (700,000 kilometers per hour) during its approach, making it the fastest object ever created by humans.

The Parker Solar Probe will be able to collect hitherto unheard-of data on solar activity and the sun’s outer atmosphere thanks to this sequence of maneuvers and close encounters. It is anticipated that these discoveries will improve our knowledge of the sun’s behavior and effects on the solar system.


Validating and improving current models of the sun’s corona and its interactions with the heliosphere—the enormous bubble of space affected by the solar wind and magnetic field of the sun—will depend heavily on the data gathered during these last approaches.

The probe’s robustness and the efficiency of its design and mission planning are demonstrated by the successful completion of these close encounters. Scientists expect significant findings as the probe continues to collect data, which will further our understanding of the sun and its interactions with the space environment.

With a clearer understanding of the underlying processes governing our star and its impact on the solar system, the Parker Solar Probe mission offers a substantial advancement in solar science.

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