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Was solar newbie Solar Orbiter able to get "closer" to the Sun than Parker Solar Probe so quickly?

Space Exploration Asked on September 29, 2021

The NASA News headline ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter Returns First Data, Snaps Closest Pictures of the Sun caught my eye because Solar Orbiter (2020-010A) was launched just five months ago whereas Parker Solar Probe (2018-065A) has been on its way to the Sun for 23 months!

Question: Was solar newbie Solar Orbiter able to get "closer" to the Sun than Parker Solar Probe so quickly? Or did Parker just not take pics of the Sun yet?

2 Answers

Other spacecraft have been closer, but none have carried Sun-facing imagers.

Source: The link you provided

("Other spacecraft" is linked to an article about Parker Solar Probe)

Q: Or did Parker just not take pics of the Sun yet?

A: Yes, or at least not from a distance closer than Solar Orbiter

Correct answer by CallMeTom on September 29, 2021

Check these visualizations from NASA. Solar Orbiter will never get as close as Parker Solar Probe perihelion. That's why it can operate a camera pointed directly into the Sun and why it didn't have to wait for better shielding technology to arrive.

The goal is to get the spacecraft (Parker Solar Probe) to fly through the corona at a distance of 9.5 solar radii. Primary science operations are conducted when the spacecraft is within 0.25 astronomical units (AUs) from the Sun,

The primary science operations for Solar Orbiter are conducted when the spacecraft is within 0.5 AUs from the Sun.

9.5 solar radii are equal to 0.044 AU. From 0.5 AU down to 0.044 AU the heat load increases by a factor of 129.

Answered by Swike on September 29, 2021

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