A Spacecraft Touched the Sun for the First Time!

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A Spacecraft Touched the Sun for the First Time!

NASA’s Parker Solar Survey Vehicle reached the Sun’s atmospheric extension known as the corona and spent five hours there. The spacecraft is the first vehicle to enter the outer limits of our Sun.

“This breakthrough, which allows us to achieve the main goal of the Parker space mission, represents the beginning of a new era in understanding the physics of the coronal,” said Professor Justin C. Kasper of the University of Michigan, lead author of the new paper published yesterday. The space mission is spearheaded by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

The spacecraft, which made the first direct observations of what is in the Sun’s atmosphere, made measurements on previously only predictable phenomena.

The Sun’s outer boundary begins at the critical Alfvén surface. This point lies below the Sun and the region where the Sun’s gravitational and magnetic forces control the solar wind. Many scientists think that the sudden reversals, called turns, that occur in the magnetic field of the Sun, originate from this field.

“The idea of ​​sending spacecraft into the Sun’s magnetic atmosphere predates NASA,” says Kasper. “The magnetic energy in this region is higher than the kinetic and thermal energy of the ions and electrons.”

NASA launched the Parker Solar Research Vehicle in 2018 with the goal of finally reaching the Sun’s corona and making humanity’s first visit to a star.

The spacecraft spent five hours in direct contact with the Sun’s plasma below the critical Alfvén surface last April. Below this surface, the pressure and energy of the Sun’s magnetic field were higher than the pressure and energy of the particles. The spacecraft had passed above and below the surface three times during this encounter. Thus, a spacecraft entered the corona of the Sun for the first time and touched its atmosphere.

The researchers also discovered something surprising, finding that the critical Alfvén surface is wrinkled. The collected data suggest that the largest and farthest crease of the surface is formed by a false pennant. Located behind the innermost visible face of the Sun, this large structure has a diameter of more than 40 degrees. It is currently unknown why a false pennant is pushing the critical Alfvén surface away from the Sun.

The scientists also noticed that there are many more bends above the critical Alfvén surface. This finding may mean that the bends do not occur in the crown. As an alternaive; The lower rates of magnetic reconnection seen at the Sun’s surface may have pumped lower mass into the observed wind current, resulting in lower turns.

The spacecraft also recorded some evidence of a possible increase in force right inside the corona. The findings may point to yet unknown physical phenomena that affect warming and heat dissipation.

Nur E. Ruafi, Parker Solar Research Vehicle Project Investigator at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, said, “He has been observing the Sun and its corona for decades; “We also knew that there were interesting physical events that heat up and accelerate the solar wind plasma,” he says. “As the Parker Solar Survey Vehicle flies into the magnetically dominant corona, we will make long-awaited insights into the inner workings of this mysterious region.”

The observations were made during the Parker Solar Survey Vehicle’s eighth encounter with the Sun. All data is publicly available in NASA’s PSP archive. Several previous studies have predicted that the spacecraft will reach the limits of the Sun for the first time in 2021.

The Parker Solar Research Vehicle, the fastest object known to be made by humans, has made many new discoveries since its launch. These include explorations into the dangers of superfast dust and explosions that create space weather.

The new findings show that the direct observations made by the spacecraft; It suggests that there is much to illuminate the physical phenomena of the warming of the corona and the formation of the solar wind. Having accomplished its goal of touching the Sun, the Parker Solar Survey Vehicle will now go deeper into the Sun’s atmosphere and stay there longer.

“It’s hard not to overstate the importance of both the event and the observations made by the Parker Space Exploration Vehicle,” says Gary Zank, co-investigator of the spacecraft’s Solar Wind Electron Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) instrument and fellow of the US National Academy of Sciences. “For more than 50 years since the beginning of the space age, the heliosphere science community has been trying to understand how the corona has heated the solar wind well beyond a million degrees Celsius. “The first measurements of the lower Alfvénik solar wind could be the first major step since Parker’s model of formation in understanding the physics behind this acceleration in the solar wind.”

“This event is something many heliosphere scientists have dreamed of for most of their professional lives!” adds Zank.

The findings, presented in Physical Review Letters, were announced at a press conference at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall 2021 Meeting yesterday.

Source: American Physical Union. Translated by Ozan Zaloglu.
Photo: https://www.indyturk.com/ Nasa

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