NASA's probe soaring near sun reveals surprises about solar wind

Pablo Tucker
December 6, 2019

Stuart Bale, professor of physics at the University of California Berkeley, recalled that a "major space weather event" in 1859 blew out telegraph networks on Earth and one in 1972 set off USA naval mines in North Vietnam.

Dr Chen said: "Over the next few years the spacecraft will get closer and closer to the Sun, down to a distance of less than 10 solar radii from the surface, and will reach within the solar corona - the atmosphere of the Sun - becoming the first spacecraft to do so". The probe has made two flybys so far, swooping past its surface at 15 million miles, its four instruments collecting data that completely revolutionizes our knowledge of the Sun and other stars. The findings, offering fresh details about how the sun spawns space weather, are reshaping astronomers' understanding of violent solar wind that can hamper satellites and electronics on Earth.

NASA's sun-skimming spacecraft, the Parker Solar Probe, is surprising scientists with its unprecedented close views of our star.

NRL's Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe, or WISPR, the only imaging instrument aboard the NASA Parker Solar Probe mission, is now 84 percent of the way to the Sun.


The "fast" solar wind, clocked at between 310 and 600 miles per second, is known to come from large holes in the solar corona at the sun's north and south poles.

Attributable to extreme ultraviolet mapping of the Sun by various spacecraft, the researchers were ready to hint the wind and the magnetic fields abet to a source- coronal holes- that strongly suggests that these holes are the source of the sluggish photo voltaic wind. However, we still don't know much about the solar winds or their impact on the Earth. In this way, charged particles and magnetic fields can escape into the further solar system.

Although scientists can study the solar wind as it washes over Earth, doing so is like trying to study the origin of a waterfall from halfway down the cliff over which it pours, says Bale.

Those include cosmic radiation 500 times more powerful than radiation on Earth and temperatures of 2,400°F. Within these waves, the speed of the solar wind doubled, and the flow was so strong that it temporarily reversed the wind's magnetic field.


"We can see the magnetic structure of the corona, which tells us that the solar wind is emerging from small coronal holes", Bale said in a statement. It can cause problems with our electric power grids. It's completed three of 24 orbits of the sun, dipping well into the corona, or upper atmosphere.

The more we learn about what's going on the Sun, the better we understand how it shapes the space we live in. At the rate of thinning seen by the probe, scientists calculate that anywhere within about three million mi (five million km) of the Sun may be dust-free - something the Parker probe will be able to confirm during its sixth flyby in September 2020.

'The first surprise is related to the co-rotation of the coronal plasma as the sun rotates, ' says Dr Zank, who wrote one of four papers on the NASA data.

One other shock, the researchers stated, used to be the mud that peppered the spacecraft in most cases at some level of every cruise-by at perihelion- the level in the orbit where the spacecraft used to be closest to the Sun.


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