The mysteries of the sun revealed by the Parker spacecraft, the 1st to touch our star's edge


The space probe Parker was launched in 2018 with a mission and either: unravel the mysteries of one of the least explored places in the solar system, its own central star.

And a year later, the mission of NASA reported on Wednesday its first comments from the edge of the Sun's atmosphere, where no other mission had come before.

The revelations, divided into four articles published in the journal Nature, offer clues to mysteries that intrigue the scientific community for decades.

One is: why the Sun's atmosphere is much hotter than its surface?

The solar surface has a temperature of approximately 5.500º C. No doubt, extremely hot, but it may seem cool compared to the temperature of the crown called (the outer part of the solar atmosphere), where it can reach the home of million degrees Celsius .

An 'explosion' constant
Observations Parker revealed that instead of being irradiated, the particles of the solar wind appear to be released as explosive jets. Tim Horbury, one of the mission's research team members, describes the process as a constant "explosion."

"Only by analyzing data from two orbits, we were really surprised at how different is the crown view closely when compared with the observation made from the earth," said Justin Kasper, Professor of Space Science and Engineering, University of Michigan ( USA) and leader of the team that developed the probe's Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP), a set of sensory instruments dedicated to measuring solar wind.

Previously, it was believed that the vibration of the sun's magnetic fields played a key role in warming the crown.

And the newly released publications show that, in fact, the vibrations get stronger as you get closer to the sun.

However, in addition to the vibrations, the NASA team noted the additional role of powerful waves, which Kasper compares to "huge and irregular ocean waves".

These "waves" would cause the speed of the solar wind to increase about 500,000 kilometers per hour. It is possible that each will last from seconds to minutes, so in a matter of seconds the solar wind would return to normal.

"We are really excited because we believe this probably opens the way for us to understand how energy moves from the sun to the atmosphere, warming it," says the professor.

Over an 11-day observation period, the SWEAP monitoring team also found different spikes in particle velocity related to these changes in the magnetic field.

The Parker team also observed that the rotational motion of particles around the sun reaches 35 and 50 kilometers per second, a speed 10 times faster than estimated in the past.

The origin of the solar wind is another discovery of the solar probe.

There are fast winds, whose origin is known in sunspots or coronal holes (regions where the solar corona is dark).

And there are slower winds that blow less than 500 kilometers per second and whose origin remains unknown.

Some theories suggest that slow winds may originate from helmeted coils, large magnetic structures present in active areas of the sun. But NASA's mission now suggests that low latitude coronal holes provide a source for this type of solar wind.

For the next six years, the spacecraft will follow an elliptical orbit closer and closer to the sun until technically the "touch".

The new observations were made when Parker was about 24,000 kilometers from the star's surface, but in the future the spacecraft is expected to reach 6,000 kilometers, a record approach for a ship.

Due to its proximity to the Solar System star, Parker cannot send photos to Earth because its camera would melt if it aimed at the sun.

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