NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Just Made Its First Close Pass by the Sun

Nov 6, 2018

By Meghan Bartels

One of humanity’s newest spacecraft faced a harrowing test late Monday night (Nov. 5), darting just 15 million miles (24 million kilometers) of the surface of our sun.

That spacecraft is NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which launched in August with a daring mission to study the star that shapes our lives. To do so, it is flying a course of 24 close loops around the sun, the first of which reached what scientists call perihelion — the moment of closest approach — Monday at 10:28 p.m. EST (0328 GMT Nov. 6).

But there won’t be much of anything to watch or listen to during the daring approach, even for the scientists and engineers who run the mission.

All throughout the few days surrounding perihelion, the spacecraft is essentially on its own. That’s because the sun is such a powerful source of radio-wave light that it drowns out the spacecraft’s communications with Earth.

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