Spectacular and historical images of the Sun from the Parker Solar Probe

NASA astronomers are very pleased with one of the most breakneck space missions in history. The Parker Solar Probe has acquired extremely valuable science data about our daily star.

The task of the device built of special carbon composite materials that can withstand a temperature of almost 2000 degrees Celsius, is to solve the mysteries that astronomers have been sleeping for decades. First, why the corona is much hotter than the surface. It has a temperature of about 5.5 thousand degrees Celsius, while the atmosphere reaches up to 2 million degrees Celsius.

Secondly, which gives such great speed and strength to the solar wind, which is also responsible for the formation of the aurora borealis on Earth. And thirdly, the mission should allow the establishment of mechanisms related to the emission of high-energy particles by the Sun, which pose a serious threat to astronauts staying at the International Space Station, in spacecraft or on walks, and in the future on the surface of the Moon.

Researchers from NASA reported that the probe is completing a total of 25 GB of scientific data from two close flights around the Sun to Earth. Data transmission is much better than previously expected, thanks to which it was possible to receive 50 percent more data in the previously assumed time. Astronomers think the first results will be published later this year. This means that then we will be able to count on not only spectacular images of our daily star that humanity has not yet seen, but also unravel some of the great secrets hidden by this object.

The Parker Solar Probe took the closest photo of the Sun in human history, from just 16.9 million kilometers from the star. Fig. NASA.

The probe, during its close flights, is approaching a record distance of just 6 million kilometers from the Sun, where the temperature is from 1500 to 2000 degrees Celsius. Let us remind you that the average distance of our planet from the Sun is 149.6 million kilometers. The device also achieves a record speed with its close flights, as much as 200 kilometers per second.

At the moment, the probe is after another in its orbit approaching the Sun and soon the third zoom will take place. The image above was made from a record distance of just 16.9 million kilometers from the star. Looking at the image, we can feel as if we were immersed in streams of solar plasma heated to thousands of degrees, which flows on powerful magnetic field lines.

In the image of the crown of our daily star you can also see a bright dot. No, this is not a mistake. This is Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, which is clearly visible from this perspective. Meanwhile, black dots are the background correction effect. Scientists are still calibrating the imaging devices on board the probe to get the best images of this giant and the phenomena occurring on it. The image was made by an instrument called Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR), which is the only space imaging tool installed onboard the Parker Solar Probe.

The first image in space exploration history of the North Pole of the Sun. Fig. NASA / ESA.

One of the most remarkable missions in the history of the conquest of space, initially it was called Solar Probe Plus, but was changed to Parker Solar Probe in honor of the astrophysicist Eugene Parker. The change was announced during a special ceremony. It took place at the University of Chicago, where Parker is a retired professor of astronomy and astrophysics.

Parker in 1958, during his work at the Enrico Fermi Institute, published an article in the Astrophysical Journal entitled Dynamics of the interplanetary gas and magnetic fields. Parker suggested in it that a lot of matter is constantly escaping from the Sun at high speed, which has a significant impact on the planets and outer space within the Solar System. Today this phenomenon is known as solar wind.

Parker’s work is somehow the basis for our knowledge of the interactions between stars and the planets orbiting them. That’s why the council decided to name the probe after him. Interestingly, this is the first time in history when the agency called the probe a part of a living scientist. This is testimony to the importance of his research, which is the foundation of a new field of research.

Updated: August 6, 2019 — 10:21 pm