November 27, 2022

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Touches the Sun for the First Time – Bringing New Discoveries

Previously, researchers were unsure precisely where the Alfvén critical surface area lay. Based on remote images of the corona, estimates had actually put it somewhere between 10 to 20 solar radii from the surface area of the Sun– 4.3 to 8.6 million miles. Parkers spiral trajectory brings it slowly more detailed to the Sun and throughout the last couple of passes, the spacecraft was regularly listed below 20 solar radii (91 percent of Earths distance from the Sun), putting it in the position to cross the boundary– if the price quotes were right.
On April 28, 2021, during its 8th flyby of the Sun, Parker Solar Probe encountered the particular magnetic and particle conditions at 18.8 solar radii (around 8.1 million miles) above the solar surface that informed researchers it had actually crossed the Alfvén vital surface for the very first time and finally got in the solar atmosphere.
” We were completely anticipating that, eventually, we would encounter the corona for a minimum of a brief period of time,” stated Justin Kasper, lead author on a new paper about the turning point published in Physical Review Letters, and deputy chief technology officer at BWX Technologies, Inc. and University of Michigan teacher. “But it is really amazing that weve currently reached it.”
Into the Eye of the Storm
Throughout the flyby, Parker Solar Probe passed into and out of the corona several times. Discovering where these protrusions line up with solar activity coming from the surface area can help researchers find out how events on the Sun impact the atmosphere and solar wind.
At one point, as Parker Solar Probe dipped to simply beneath 15 solar radii (around 6.5 million miles) from the Suns surface, it transited a function in the corona called a pseudostreamer. Pseudostreamers are huge structures that rise above the Suns surface and can be seen from Earth throughout solar eclipses.
As Parker Solar Probe passed through the corona on encounter nine, the spacecraft flew by structures called coronal banners. They are noticeable from Earth throughout total solar eclipses.Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Laboratory
Going through the pseudostreamer resembled flying into the eye of a storm. Inside the pseudostreamer, the conditions quieted, particles slowed, and number of switchbacks dropped– a significant modification from the hectic barrage of particles the spacecraft usually experiences in the solar wind.
For the very first time, the spacecraft discovered itself in an area where the electromagnetic fields were strong enough to control the movement of particles there. These conditions were the conclusive evidence the spacecraft had actually passed the Alfvén vital surface area and entered the solar environment where magnetic fields form the movement of whatever in the area.
The very first passage through the corona, which lasted just a couple of hours, is among many prepared for the objective. Parker will continue to spiral closer to the Sun, ultimately reaching as close as 8.86 solar radii (3.83 million miles) from the surface area. Upcoming flybys, the next of which is happening in January 2022, will likely bring Parker Solar Probe through the corona once again.
” Im thrilled to see what Parker finds as it consistently travels through the corona in the years to come,” stated Nicola Fox, department director for the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. “The opportunity for brand-new discoveries is limitless.”
The size of the corona is also driven by solar activity. As the Suns 11-year activity cycle– the solar cycle– increases, the external edge of the corona will broaden, giving Parker Solar Probe a higher chance of being inside the corona for longer amount of times.
” It is a really crucial area to enter into since we believe all sorts of physics possibly turn on,” Kasper stated. “And now were getting into that area and ideally going to start seeing some of these physics and behaviors.”
Narrowing Down Switchback Origins
Even prior to the very first journeys through the corona, some unexpected physics was already surfacing. On recent solar encounters, Parker Solar Probe gathered data determining the origin of zig-zag-shaped structures in the solar wind, called switchbacks. The data revealed one spot that switchbacks stem is at the noticeable surface area of the Sun– the photosphere.
As it gets away the Sun, the solar wind is structured and irregular. In the mid-1990s, the NASA-European Space Agency mission Ulysses flew over the Suns poles and found a handful of strange S-shaped kinks in the solar winds magnetic field lines, which detoured charged particles on a zig-zag course as they escaped the Sun.
In 2019, at 34 solar radii from the Sun, Parker found that switchbacks were not rare, however typical in the solar wind. This renewed interest in the features and raised new questions: Where were they coming from? Were they forged at the surface of the Sun, or formed by some process kinking electromagnetic fields in the solar atmosphere?
The brand-new findings, in press at the Astrophysical Journal, finally verify one origin point is near the solar surface.
The hints came as Parker orbited closer to the Sun on its sixth flyby, less than 25 solar radii out. Information showed switchbacks occur in spots and have a greater percentage of helium– understood to come from the photosphere– than other components. The switchbacks origins were further narrowed when the scientists discovered the spots aligned with magnetic funnels that emerge from the photosphere between convection cell structures called supergranules.
In addition to being the birthplace of switchbacks, the researchers believe the magnetic funnels may be where one component of the solar wind originates. The solar wind is available in two different varieties– fast and sluggish– and the funnels could be where some particles in the quick solar wind come from.
” The structure of the areas with switchbacks matches up with a small magnetic funnel structure at the base of the corona,” stated Stuart Bale, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author on the brand-new switchbacks paper. “This is what we get out of some theories, and this pinpoints a source for the solar wind itself.”
Understanding where and how the elements of the quick solar wind emerge, and if theyre connected to switchbacks, could assist researchers address a longstanding solar secret: how the corona is heated up to countless degrees, far hotter than the solar surface listed below.
As Parker Solar Probe endeavors closer to the Sun, its crossing into uncharted programs and making brand-new discoveries. This image represents Parker Solar Probes ranges from the Sun for a few of these discoveries.credits and turning points: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary P. Hrybyk-Keith
While the brand-new findings find where switchbacks are made, the scientists cant yet verify how theyre formed. One theory recommends they might be developed by waves of plasma that roll through the region like ocean browse. Another contends theyre made by an explosive procedure known as magnetic reconnection, which is thought to take place at the limits where the magnetic funnels come together.
” My instinct is, as we go deeper into the objective and lower and closer to the Sun, were going to find out more about how magnetic funnels are connected to the switchbacks,” Bale said. “And ideally fix the concern of what process makes them.”
Now that researchers understand what to try to find, Parkers closer passes may expose a lot more ideas about switchbacks and other solar phenomena. The information to come will allow scientists a glance into a region thats important for superheating the corona and pushing the solar wind to supersonic speeds. Such measurements from the corona will be critical for understanding and anticipating severe area weather condition events that can interfere with telecoms and damage satellites around Earth.
” Its truly amazing to see our advanced innovations prosper in taking Parker Solar Probe closer to the Sun than weve ever been, and to be able to return such amazing science,” said Joseph Smith, Parker program executive at NASA Headquarters. “We anticipate seeing what else the objective finds as it endeavors even more detailed in the coming years.”
Recommendation: “I Enters the Magnetically Dominated Solar Corona” by J. C. Kasper et al., 14 December 2021, Physical Review Letters.DOI: 10.1103/ PhysRevLett.127.255101.
Parker Solar Probe is part of NASAs Living with a Star program to check out elements of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the firms Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASAs Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, handles the Parker Solar Probe objective for NASA and developed, developed, and runs the spacecraft.

” Parker Solar Probe “touching the Sun” is a monumental minute for solar science and a genuinely impressive feat,” stated Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Not just does this milestone supply us with deeper insights into our Suns evolution and its effect on our planetary system, however whatever we discover our own star likewise teaches us more about stars in the remainder of the universe.”
As it circles around closer to the solar surface, Parker is making new discoveries that other spacecraft were too far away to see, including from within the solar wind– the flow of particles from the Sun that can affect us at Earth. In 2019, Parker discovered that magnetic zig-zag structures in the solar wind, called switchbacks, abound close to the Sun. How and where they form remained a secret. Halving the range to the Sun because then, Parker Solar Probe has now passed close enough to determine one place where they come from: the solar surface.
The first passage through the corona– and the promise of more flybys to come– will continue to supply information on phenomena that are difficult to study from afar.
Artists principle of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. Credit: NASA
” Flying so near to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe now senses conditions in the magnetically controlled layer of the solar environment– the corona– that we never could in the past,” stated Nour Raouafi, the Parker job scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “We see proof of remaining in the corona in electromagnetic field data, solar wind data, and visually in images. We can really see the spacecraft flying through coronal structures that can be observed during a total solar eclipse.”
Better Than Ever Before
Parker Solar Probe introduced in 2018 to explore the secrets of the Sun by traveling closer to it than any spacecraft prior to. Three years after launch and decades after very first conception, Parker has lastly shown up.
Unlike Earth, the Sun doesnt have a strong surface. It does have a superheated atmosphere, made of solar material bound to the Sun by gravity and magnetic forces. As rising heat and pressure push that material away from the Sun, it reaches a point where gravity and electromagnetic fields are too weak to include it.
That point, referred to as the Alfvén critical surface area, marks the end of the solar environment and beginning of the solar wind. Solar product with the energy to make it throughout that limit ends up being the solar wind, which drags the electromagnetic field of the Sun with it as it races throughout the solar system, to Earth and beyond. Notably, beyond the Alfvén important surface, the solar wind moves so quickly that waves within the wind can never travel quickly enough to make it back to the Sun– severing their connection.

For the very first time in history, a spacecraft has actually touched the Sun. NASAs Parker Solar Probe has actually now flown through the Suns upper atmosphere– the corona– and sampled particles and magnetic fields there.
The brand-new turning point marks one major action for Parker Solar Probe and one giant leap for solar science. Just as landing on the Moon allowed scientists to understand how it was formed, touching the very things the Sun is made from will assist scientists discover vital info about our closest star and its impact on the planetary system.

A significant milestone and new outcomes from NASAs Parker Solar Probe were revealed on Dec. 14 in a press conference at the 2021 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in New Orleans. The results have actually been released in Physical Review Letters and accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

As it circles closer to the solar surface, Parker is making new discoveries that other spacecraft were too far away to see, including from within the solar wind– the flow of particles from the Sun that can influence us at Earth. Cutting in half the distance to the Sun considering that then, Parker Solar Probe has now passed close enough to recognize one place where they come from: the solar surface area.
” Flying so close to the Sun, Parker Solar Probe now senses conditions in the magnetically controlled layer of the solar environment– the corona– that we never ever could previously,” said Nour Raouafi, the Parker job scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. Solar product with the energy to make it across that boundary becomes the solar wind, which drags the magnetic field of the Sun with it as it races across the solar system, to Earth and beyond. On current solar encounters, Parker Solar Probe gathered data determining the origin of zig-zag-shaped structures in the solar wind, called switchbacks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *