Parker's prime mission is to investigate the origin of the solar wind--a project best done uncomfortably close to the star. Parker will trace the solar wind back to its source and find out how it escapes the sun's gravity and magnetic confinement.
Russell Howard of the Naval Research Laboratory expects to learn a lot from this encounter. "We might detect magnetic islands in the solar wind, which have been theoretically predicted. And if a CME (solar explosion) happens or a comet passes through the sun's atmosphere while we are so nearby, it could be spectacular."
"We lose communication with the spacecraft during the perihelion period which begins next week," notes Howard. "This is because there isn't sufficient power to drive both the instruments and the transmitter. The first dump of data will occur in early December." Stay tuned for that.
Parker will plunge toward the sun 24 more times in the next 8 years, breaking many records en route. Here's the timeline.