Parker Solar Probe

It’s done, a space probe has just touched the Sun!

A resounding success for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, the space agency has just announced that the device flew for the first time through the corona of the Sun or corona on April 28, 2021. This is the upper part of the atmosphere of our star, and if we know today that this event occurred, it is because the probe survived its first passage in this hostile environment.

According to astrophysicist Thomas Zurbuchen, also associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Parker Solar Probe “touching the Sun”, this is a monumental moment for solar science, and also a remarkable achievement. He added that this would provide deeper insight into the evolution of the Sun and its impact on the solar system. It will also be an opportunity to learn more about the other stars in the Universe based on what we will learn about our star.

The Parker probe was launched in 2018 with the main objective of studying the corona of the Sun. Its mission is scheduled to last 7 years, and the probe will pass a total of 26 times close to the Sun during the perihelions of its orbit. It is known that the approach which took place in April was on the 8th perihelion, but the probe has already started its study work long before this event.

What the probe measured

The data obtained shows that the probe spent nearly 5 hours inside the solar atmosphere. She was able to measure fluctuations in the magnetic field and also analyzed particles. Until now, information on these properties of the Sun has come from external measurements.

According to astrophysicist Nour Raouafi, one of the scientists responsible for the probe, in the images, magnetic field data and solar wind data sent by Parker, it can be clearly seen that the probe is indeed in the corona. . We can see that the device is crossing the coronal structures, observable during total solar eclipses.

Unlike rocky planets, the Sun does not have a solid surface. Its limit is defined by what is called the critical area of ​​Alfvén, where the gravity and the solar magnetic fields are too weak to contain the plasma. Above this limit, solar winds emerge and “blow” very powerfully through the solar system. One of the objectives of the Parker probe is also to study this critical Alfven surface.

Regarding the solar magnetic field, the data shows that the probe detected the magnetic properties of the corona sporadically. This suggests that Alfvén’s surface is wrinkled. At a deeper level in the corona, the probe encountered a magnetic structure called a pseudostreamer. According to the scientists, the data obtained suggests that these structures are responsible for the deformation of the Alfvén surface, but the reason for this is not yet known.

The “switchbacks”

During its passage through the solar atmosphere, the Parker probe also studied a phenomenon known as “switchbacks”. These are kinds of Z-shaped bonds in the magnetic field of the solar wind, and we don’t know where or how they form.

The probe was able to detect switchbacks in the solar atmosphere, suggesting that at least some of these links originate from the lower part of the corona. According to astronomer Stuart Bale of the University of California, Berkeley, the structure of the regions with the switchbacks corresponds to a small magnetic funnel at the base of the crown.

At the moment, scientists do not yet know how these switchbacks form. However, with the perihelions to come, they hope they will get answers to any questions they have regarding the properties of the Sun.

SOURCE: Sciencealert

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