March 5, 2024

Parker Solar Probe Finds Magnetic Energy Near Sun’s Surface Enables Solar Wind To Reach Gravity-Defying Speeds

Scientists have actually used information from NASAs Parker Solar Probe to understand how the suns wind, composed of ionized particles or plasma, can exceed speeds of 1 million miles per hour. These storms occur when the sun experiences more unstable activity, consisting of solar flares and massive expulsions of plasma into space, understood as coronal mass ejections. NASAs Parker Solar Probe flew through the Suns upper environment– the corona– and sampled particles and magnetic fields there. To much better understand these procedures, the authors of the new Nature paper utilized data from the Parker Solar Probe to evaluate the plasma flowing out of the corona– the outermost and most popular layer of the sun. In April 2021, Parker ended up being the first spacecraft to go into the suns corona and has been nudging closer to the sun ever considering that.

James Drake, a Distinguished University Professor in the University of Marylands Department of Physics and Institute for Physical Science and Technology (IPST), co-led this research study along with very first author Stuart Bale of UC Berkeley. Drake said researchers have been trying to comprehend solar wind chauffeurs since the 1950s– and with the world more interconnected than ever, the implications for Earth are significant.
The solar wind forms a giant magnetic bubble, known as the heliosphere, that secures planets in our solar system from a barrage of high-energy cosmic rays that whip around the galaxy. The solar wind likewise carries plasma and part of the suns magnetic field, which can crash into Earths magnetosphere and cause disruptions, including geomagnetic storms.
Artists principle of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben
These storms happen when the sun experiences more unstable activity, including solar flares and huge expulsions of plasma into area, understood as coronal mass ejections. Geomagnetic storms are accountable for amazing aurora light shows that can be seen near the Earths poles, however at their most effective, they can knock out a citys power grid and potentially even interrupt worldwide interactions. Such occasions, while uncommon, can also be lethal to astronauts in area.
” Winds carry great deals of info from the sun to Earth, so comprehending the mechanism behind the suns wind is necessary for useful factors in the world,” Drake stated. “Thats going to affect our capability to comprehend how the sun releases energy and drives geomagnetic storms, which are a danger to our communication networks.”
Previous studies exposed that the suns magnetic field was somehow driving the solar wind, however researchers didnt know the underlying system. Previously this year, Drake co-authored a paper that argued that the heating and velocity of the solar wind is driven by magnetic reconnection– a process that Drake has actually devoted his scientific career to studying.
The authors explained that the whole surface of the sun is covered in little “jetlets” of hot plasma that are propelled up by magnetic reconnection, which occurs when magnetic fields pointing in opposite instructions cross-connect. In turn, this activates the release of enormous quantities of energy.
NASAs Parker Solar Probe flew through the Suns upper atmosphere– the corona– and sampled particles and electromagnetic fields there. This was the very first time in history that a spacecraft touched the Sun. Credit: Ben Smith/ Applied Physics Laboratory/ NASA
” Two things pointing in opposite directions often wind up wiping out each other, and in this case doing so launches magnetic energy,” Drake stated. “These surges that happen on the sun are all driven by that system. Its the annihilation of an electromagnetic field.”
To much better understand these procedures, the authors of the new Nature paper utilized data from the Parker Solar Probe to analyze the plasma draining of the corona– the outermost and most popular layer of the sun. In April 2021, Parker became the very first spacecraft to go into the suns corona and has actually been nudging closer to the sun since. The information mentioned in this paper was taken at a distance of 13 solar radii, or roughly 5.6 million miles from the sun.
” When you get very near to the sun, you start seeing stuff that you just cant see from Earth,” Drake stated. “All the satellites that surround Earth are 210 solar radii from the sun, and now were down to 13. Were about as close as were going to get.”
Utilizing this brand-new information, the Nature paper authors provided the first characterization of the bursts of magnetic energy that take place in coronal holes, which are openings in the suns electromagnetic field as well as the source of the solar wind.
The scientists showed that magnetic reconnection between open and closed magnetic fields– referred to as interchange connection– is a continuous procedure, instead of a series of separated occasions as previously believed. This led them to conclude that the rate of magnetic energy release, which drives the external jet of heated plasma, was effective adequate to get rid of gravity and produce the suns quick wind.
By comprehending these smaller sized releases of energy that are continuously occurring on the sun, researchers want to comprehend– and possibly even anticipate– the bigger and more dangerous eruptions that launch plasma out into space. In addition to the implications for Earth, findings from this research study can be applied to other areas of astronomy.
” Winds are produced by objects throughout deep space, so understanding what drives the wind from the sun has broad implications,” Drake said. “Winds from stars, for example, play a vital function in protecting planetary systems from galactic cosmic rays, which can impact habitability.”
This would not only help our understanding of the universe, however possibly also the look for life on other planets.
For more on this research, see Parker Solar Probe Plunges Into Fast Solar Wind and Discovers Its Source.
Recommendation: “Interchange reconnection as the source of the quick solar wind within coronal holes” by S. D. Bale, J. F. Drake, M. D. McManus, M. I. Desai, S. T. Badman, D. E. Larson, M. Swisdak, T. S. Horbury, N. E. Raouafi, T. Phan, M. Velli, D. J. McComas, C. M. S. Cohen, D. Mitchell, O. Panasenco and J. C. Kasper, 7 June 2023, Nature.DOI: 10.1038/ s41586-023-05955-3.
In addition to Drake, Marc Swisdak, a research scientist in UMDs Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics, co-authored this research study.
This research study was supported by NASA (Contract No. NNN06AA01C). This story does not necessarily reflect the views of this company.

Researchers have made use of information from NASAs Parker Solar Probe to comprehend how the suns wind, composed of ionized particles or plasma, can surpass speeds of 1 million miles per hour. (Illustration of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the sun.) Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
NASAs Parker Solar Probe Identifies Mechanism Driving the Suns Fast Wind
Parker Solar Probe data has helped researchers understand how the suns wind can reach speeds going beyond 1 million miles per hour. This could assist in forecasting big solar eruptions, enhance our understanding of cosmic wind phenomena, and aid in the look for habitable worlds.
The fastest winds ever tape-recorded on Earth reached more than 200 miles per hour, however even those gusts fade in comparison to the suns wind.
In a paper published on June 7, 2023, in the journal Nature, a group of scientists utilized information from NASAs Parker Solar Probe to describe how the solar wind can going beyond speeds of 1 million miles per hour. They found that the energy released from the electromagnetic field near the suns surface is powerful enough to drive the quick solar wind, which is made up of ionized particles– called plasma– that circulation outside from the sun.