NASA’s Parker Solar Probe took one step closer to the sun Wednesday (Jan. 29) when it executed its fourth flyby of our star.
This is the first such maneuver, called a perihelion, that the spacecraft has completed since swinging past Venus in December, a move that shrank the probe’s orbit. That so-called gravity assist means Parker Solar Probe broke its own record today for the closest a spacecraft has come to the sun, as the probe will continue to do repeatedly over the course of its seven-year mission.
At about 4:30 a.m. EST (0930 GMT), Parker Solar Probe’s trajectory carried the spacecraft within about 11.6 million miles (18.6 million kilometers) of the sun, more than 3 million miles (5 million km) closer than previous flybys. Before Parker Solar Probe’s launch, no spacecraft had come within 26.5 million miles (43 million kilometers) of the sun, a record set by the Helios 2 mission in 1976.