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Parker Solar Probe scientists reveal the sun's first results



Today scientists publish the surprising first results of the first two encounters of the Parker solar probe with the sun.

From 36 sun radii it is already clear that our sun is a chaotic animal full of surprises with sunlight. Winds circle it faster than expected, magnetic fields quickly reverse and plasma globules gush out of its corona. These first four works have already uncovered new puzzles and show how much science is still to be expected from the Parker Solar Probe.

"I did not expect to see any surprising things soon," said Justin Kasper, principal investigator of the Solar Wind Electron Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) instrument from Parker Solar Probe, to Gizmodo. "There will certainly be no boring moment as we get closer and closer."

The Parker Solar Probe launched in August 201

8 too much fanfare. The researchers hope to find out why the outer atmosphere of the sun, also known as corona, has temperatures of over one million degrees Celsius, while its surface is only a few thousand degrees Celsius. They also want to understand the process by which the corona emits the energetic particles we call the solar wind. The probe contains a series of imaging, particle-measuring and electromagnetic field-measuring instruments protected by advanced carbon foam and a ceramic heat shield .

The probe used Venus' gravity to hurl itself into an eccentric orbit, transporting it faster and bringing it closer to the Sun than any previous mission . Following the publication of data last week the scientists are now presenting the results of the first two encounters, which took place in November 2018 and April 2019, bringing the spaceship around the sun in 36 sun radii. Their findings appear in four articles published today in Nature.

Perhaps the most dramatic discovery was the tangled details of the solar wind, which loses its complexity on its way to Earth. The electromagnetic field measuring FIELDS instrument observed plasma jets piercing a calmer solar wind emerging from a hole in the corona, creating areas where the magnetic field swirls rapidly, as states in . In these regions, it's like entering a place where your compass needle swings from south to north. The sun generates this solar wind structure even during the current solar minimum, when the sun is supposed to be the least active.

Observing the behavior of the particles themselves with SWEAP revealed peaks in the particle velocity associated with these magnetic field flips a thousand times over an eleven-day observation period. In addition, the rotational movement of the particles around the sun reached a peak between 35 and 50 kilometers per second and was thus about ten times faster than predicted, according to of the publication . Imagine coming to a merry-go-round and seeing the outermost animal traveling inexplicably fast. You would be confused too. Since the solar wind should deprive the sun of energy, these particles indicate at high speed that the own rotation of the sun should also be slowed down faster. it's another puzzle for scientists to figure it out.

The image of sunlight scattered by electrons and dust particles taken with the Parker Solar Probe (WISPR) wide-field imager mostly confirmed observations from Earth, with less scattered from the Sun. has been. However, a decrease in scatter closer to the sun seems to indicate a theoretical but never observed "dust-free" zone. These observations also point to the complex structure of the corona itself, with lumps of particles emerging from the corona. There was also evidence of twisted magnetic field tubes, referred to as flux ropes, and for the first time references to ellipses of the magnetic field called magnetic islands and to the energetic consequences of intersecting and rearranging magnetic field lines according to [19459004erzeugtwerden] .

Finally, analysis of the particles over the corona with the ISSIS instrument (Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun) seems to provide clues to much smaller particle emission events that we can not see from Earth. These smaller events could eventually move into the larger or more energetic events we see, said David McComas, who is based at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. The team sees how the particles accelerate in different ways, both directly through magnetic field lines recombining in the corona, and through collisions and even smaller compression waves. the authors write . Acceleration by compression waves has not been observed.

All in all, we can use these results to understand the solar wind and overall space weather as well as the acceleration and motion of particles in the solar environment, according to Mitzi Adams, solar scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, who was not involved in the work Gizmodo in an email with.

And this is just two fly-bys The next six years of Parker Solar Probe's lifetime, "said Reka Winslow, a research associate at New Hampshire University who was not involved in the analysis, in an email to Gizmodo With. She explained that the lack of data from the solar environment is one of the biggest obstacles to understanding the solar processes. "The more quality data we have, the better chance we have of finally answering some of the big questions that are still open in heliophysics."

These missions show that much of the information is lost as particles travel between the two countries Sun and Earth – data that the Parker Solar Probe can record from a closer viewpoint. Another European Space Agency mission, the Solar Orbiter, will soon complement the Parker Solar Probe with its own suite of complementary instruments. Daniel Verscharen, Senior Research Associate at University College London, noted in a nature commentary . "These joint measurements will certainly close some of the remaining gaps in our knowledge of sun and solar wind."

The sun only becomes more active when it moves from its current solar minimum to its maximum and beyond an 11-year cycle, which probably throws even more surprises on the various instruments of the probe. Kasper said, "I can not even imagine what things will look like when we approach three times."


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