Parker Solar Probe Offers Stunning View of Venus during flyby

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe captured stunning views of Venus during its close flyby of the planet in July 2020.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe captured stunning views of Venus during its close flyby of the planet in July 2020.

Though Parker Solar Probe’s focus is the Sun, Venus plays a critical role in the mission: The spacecraft whips by Venus a total of seven times over the course of its seven-year mission, using the planet’s gravity to bend the spacecraft’s orbit.

Parker Solar Probe circles in front of the sun in this artist rendering. (Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins APL, Steve Gribben)

These Venus gravity assists allow Parker Solar Probe to fly closer and closer to the Sun on its mission to study the dynamics of the solar wind close to its source.

But — along with the orbital dynamics — these passes can also yield some unique and even unexpected views of the inner solar system.

During the mission’s third Venus gravity assist on July 11, 2020, the onboard Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe, or WISPR, captured a striking image of the planet’s nightside from 7,693 miles away.

Photos taken by the Wide-Field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR) showing the solar wind streaming past the spacecraft. These flows of energy can carry small grains of dust away from the sun and even out of the solar system entirely. (Credit: NASA/Naval

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