Solar Probe Set To Break Own Record as Fastest Human-Made Object in the Universe This Weekend

As one may think, the fastest machine humanity has ever made is neither one of the Voyager Spacecraft or New Horizons. Instead, it’s a space probe headed in the opposite direction, to investigate the Sun. 

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe established the record for the fastest human-created object in the cosmos (excluding minuscule particles) in 2018, only to break it in May of this year. It’s going to shatter it again this weekend.

Parker has previously set a speed record of 532,000 km/h (330,000 miles per hour). Parker will increase its speed to 587,000 km/h on Sunday, November 21, allowing it to travel to the Moon and back in about 80 minutes rather than the traditional three-day journey. 

However, that is still not fast enough for some purposes, so on November 21; Parker will increase its speed to 587,000 km/h (365,000 mph). That is 163 kilometers per second (101 miles per hour).

Solar Probe Set To Break Own Record as Fastest Human-Made Object in the Universe This Weekend

Parker will never be able to move at that speed. Parker will reach a top speed of 692,000 km/h (430,000 mph) in December 2024, barring a tragic collision with a space rock (which, at these speeds, does not have to be very massive to be devastating). Because there is no universal cosmic still point, as the Michelson-Morely experiment demonstrated and Einstein stated, speed is only meaningful in relation to something. Parker’s speeds calculated in relation to the Sun rather than the Earth.

As the probe approaches closer to the object of its affection, this will be the probe’s tenth flyby of the Sun. The probe’s speed increases over time as it follows an extended orbit making short ventures as near to the Sun as 6 million kilometers (4 million miles) before high tailing it back out to cool down. 

Parker approaches planets near enough to utilize their gravity to drive itself into orbits that bring it closer to the Sun and therefore quicker. It performed its sixth flyby of Venus last month to get into its present orbit. Before the mission is over, it will perform two important orbital changes.

Setting speed records is fun, but it is only a byproduct of the mission’s primary goal of learning about the Sun and its near surroundings. In a statement, Dr. Nour Raouafi of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Labs said, “We’re detecting greater than predicted volumes of dust near the Sun.” Parker looks at the dust in a roundabout way, using electrical sensors to look at the plasma clouds that form when dust collides with the probe.

“What’s fascinating about this is that it significantly improves our knowledge of the deepest areas of our heliosphere, providing us with insight into an environment that was previously a complete mystery,” Raouafi said. Parker’s top speed will be 0.064 percent of the speed of light, which is remarkable. Even if it could sustain that maximum on an outward voyage, reaching the closest star would take 67,000 years. You can understand why we require something unique.