NASA has released its first results from the Parker Solar Probe’s close approaches to the sun.
For the first time, the probe found evidence of a zone with no cosmic dust, as well as a source of the solar wind of charged particles that streams from the sun.
It also discovered previously unseen bursts of rapid solar wind that bend the sun’s magnetic field backwards.
The spacecraft will zip around the sun 21 more times in the next six years.
Its findings could help scientists devise new protections for astronauts and Earth’s electric grid.
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NASA’s record-breaking solar probe has discovered new, mysterious phenomena at the edge of the sun.
Since it launched in August 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has rocketed around the sun three times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it and traveling faster than any other human-made object in history.
On Wednesday, NASA scientists announced the probe’s biggest discoveries so far, in four papers published in the journal Nature.
The research revealed never-before-seen activity in the plasma and energy at the edges of the sun’s atmosphere, including reversals of the sun’s magnetic field and “bursts” in its stream of electrically charged particles, called solar wind.
This wind surges into space and washes over Earth, so studying its source could help scientists figure out how to protect astronauts and Earth’s electric grid from unpredictable, violent solar explosions.
By sending the Parker probe to the sun, NASA is studying this dangerous wind in more detail than scientists could from Earth.
“Imagine that we live halfway down a waterfall, and the water is always flowing past us. It’s very turbulent, chaotic, unstructured, and we want to know what is the source of the waterfall up at the top,” Stuart Bale, a physicist who leads the team that investigates the probe’s solar wind data, said in a press call. “It’s very hard to tell from halfway down.”
‘Bursty’ solar wind bends the sun’s magnetic field
NASA scientists are seeking answers two major questions about the sun: What causes solar wind to accelerate as it shoots out into space? And why is the sun’s outer layer, called the corona, up to 500 times hotter than its inner layers?
The new data offers some initial clues. For the first time, Parker identified a clear source of a stream of slow, steady wind flowing out from the sun. It came from a hole in the corona — a spot where the gas is cooler and less dense.
Scientists had previously known that wind coming from the sun’s poles moves faster, but this was the first time they detected an origin point for the slow wind coming from its equator.
The Parker probe also detected rogue waves of magnetic energy rushing through the solar wind. As those magnetic waves washed over the spacecraft, the Parker probe detected huge spikes in the speed of the solar wind — sometimes it jumped over 300,000 mph in just seconds. Then just as quickly, the rapid winds were …read more
Source:: Business Insider – Tech