The Sun is right there in the name of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, but the second mission of the opportunity can make the spacecraft just as the key to Venus scientists as to those who are studying the local star. Parker Solar Probe that was launched in the year 2018 in August that is destined to spend almost seven years looping ever closer to the sun in hopes of sorting out some of the hottest mysteries about the star. However, to do so, spacecraft needed a well-choreographed trajectory, one that included seven flybys of the Earth’s evil twin, Venus. The Venus Scientists, who have not had a dedicated spacecraft since the mid1990s, were not about to let the opportunity fly past them.
Shannon Curry, who is a planetary physicist that is working at the University of California, said that the Venus flybys are like if you do have like a 48-hour layover in Paris, not leaving the airport. She added that it would be crazy not to turn on the numerous instruments. Curry, together with her colleagues, made her case, and Parker Solar Probe will be able to gather its second batch of the Venus data on December 26 as probe makes the closest approach to the planet.
The Parker Solar Probe’s instruments have been designed to study the star and not the planet. They do focus mostly on the plasma, hot mess of the charged particles that make up the sun. Traditionally, the planetary scientists want very different instruments on the spacecraft, radar devices to be able to map surface, the spectrometers to be able to identify the chemicals and the like. However, that does not make the plasma data superfluous.
Two dedicated Venus Missions have carried the plasma detectors to the world; the NASA pioneer Venus Orbiter as well as European Space Agency by the name Venus Express. But such spacecraft were built many years ago. The materials, which they were able to put on the Parker Solar Probe, do take measurements better, faster as well as stronger, just like the whole deal. She went on to say that together with her colleagues, they have plenty of questions about Venus, which plasma data could help in answering. For today’s flyby, this team, in particular, was interested in a feature known as bow shock, where planets neighborhood meets solar wind of the charged particles, which regularly stream off the sun.
The precise location of the bow shock does vary based on how active the sun is, which changes throughout the around 11-year solar cycle.