Posted: 10 Nov 2021 07:49 GMT
The spacecraft has completed 9 orbits around our star, having come closer to it than any other device to date.
The impacts of space dust particles on Parker solar probe from NASA, the closest to the Sun to date, generate plasma explosions that could disrupt the operation of the device, according to scientists at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) of the University of Colorado and the Physics Laboratory Applied (APL) from Johns Hopkins University.
In a new study, researchers conclude that the high speed at which the spacecraft is moving causes even a collision with tiny dust particles cause serious damage to its operation.
When traversing space near the Sun at a speed of up to 180 kilometers per second, the Parker probe enters the densest region of the zodiac cloud (dust that forms a cloud around the astro), where tiny dust particles begin to collide with the ship at more than 10,000 kilometers per hour.
Upon impact, the material that makes up the dust and the surface of the spacecraft becomes so hot that it vaporizes and ionizes, turning into plasma. However, the rapid vaporization and ionization processes create a plasma explosion lasting just a thousandth of a second.
Using antennas and sensors, the researchers were able to measure disturbances in the electromagnetic environment around the probe caused by plasma explosions and found that metal flakes and paint chips are detached during collisions. Some debris scattered sunlight into the probe’s navigation chambers, preventing it from determining its orientation in space, which could jeopardize the mission of the solar device, since its operation depends on the precise orientation of its heat shield.
The Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 12 of 2018 with the main objective of revealing how energy and heat move through the crown of the star king and what accelerates the solar wind.
In these three years, the probe has completed 9 orbits Around the sun. Before its main mission ends, in 2025, it will add another 15 orbits.
On August 9, the solar probe made its ninth successful approach to the Sun, called ‘perihelion’, and equaled its own distance record, set on April 29, when approaching 10.4 million kilometers of its surface.