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16th of August 2018
Parker Solar Probe
The Parker Solar Probe was launched last weekend and has commenced its seven year journey to probe the outer corona of the Sun. It will approach to within 9 solar radii (6.2 million kilometers) from the "surface" of the Sun and will travel, at perihelion, or closest approach, as fast as 700,000 km/h. The spacecraft was named after physicist Eugene Parker, who first proposed the existence of the solar wind, a constant stream of particles escaping from the sun. This is the first time a NASA spacecraft was named after a living person. (Parker's theoretical modeling in the mid-1950s was controversial, and when he submitted his results to The Astrophysical Journal, two reviewers rejected it!) The image above shows the evolution of the Parker Solar Probe's orbit: over its lifetime it will make seven fly-bys of Venus, each time modifying its orbit to pass closer to the Sun. Over its nominal 7 year lifetime it will swing by the sun 26 times. (Image credit: NASA)

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