On March 17, 2023, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its 15th approach to the sun. It comes within 5.3 million miles of the sun’s scorching surface.
Nour Raouafi, Parker’s project scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, said: “If we can observe the same solar phenomena as they travel from the sun to the solar system, we have a remarkable opportunity to see how structures such as the solar wind change as they move through time and space. These extra eyes on the sun and inner heliosphere help us to see the bigger picture, beyond what Parker can do alone.”
At perihelion, the spacecraft traveled at 364,619 miles per hour, fast enough to fly from New York to Tokyo in just over a minute.
Since Earth was in a prime position to view Parker’s latest encounter, the scientific community launched a ground-based observation campaign. More than 40 observatories in the United States, Europe and Asia pointed their visible, infrared and radio telescopes at the sun for several weeks around the Parker encounter.
The shape of Parker’s most recent orbit also placed it in direct line-of-sight with Earth and a number of other spacecraft observing the Sun during its close encounter, creating exceptional scientific opportunities for joint ground and space exploration.
As intended, the high-energy Energetic Particle Instrument (EPI-Hi) was shut down by Parker Solar Probe’s autonomy system on Feb. 13 when the instrument had an early power cycle before the end of a software patch upload. On March 10, ahead of Solar Encounter 15, the instrument and Parker Mission Operations teams successfully restored instrument configuration following an anomaly recovery plan.
The spacecraft entered the encounter in good health, with all systems operating normally.