NASA’s Mission to Touch the Sun is Resolving Mysteries of Star

The Sun, located at the center of our Solar System, but the mystery has surrounded the star and its behavior. NASA introduced the Parker Solar Probe in August 2018 to draw closer to the Sun than any satellite before. Now, scientists have just released the first data from the mission to “touch” the Sun, and also disclosed some of the strange activities of the star. The Parker Solar Probe was planned to answer the fundamental questions about the solar wind, which streams out from the Sun, blowing energetic particles across the Solar System. Its instrument may offer insight into the Sun’s corona - the outer atmosphere of the star, which is hotter than the actual surface. The surface is nearly 6000 Kelvin, while the corona is one million degrees Kelvin.

Over the coming years, the probe will dive several more times around the Sun. It is the main thing to understand the blazing heat and the solar wind of the corona. Both play a crucial role in solar storms and space weather and to estimate that the solar wind could enable a better forecast of space weather. The temperature of the corona and solar wind also impacts the release of mass from it, which could strike the telecommunications and global power grind, besides astronauts on the ISS (International Space Station). Hence, the accelerated and energized particles streaming in the solar wind away from the Sun are even responsible for the Southern and Northern lights we spot on the Earth.

However, several mysteries remain about our nearest star, like why the corona is so hot and how the Sun pushes and creates solar wind out into space.

According to research papers published in the Journal Nature, research scholars have detailed their initial findings from the information the probe has collected so far. Here are the results-

  • As the solar wind blows outward, it even rotates around the Sun much faster than it was assumed. The reasons behind this are still unrevealed, but the findings indicate how stars slow down their spinning as they age.
  • There are specific changes in the magnetic fields of the Sun, which might be depositing energy into solar wind and speed it up.
  • Part of its solar wind, whose origins are unknown, appears to come partly from holes in the Sun’s corona.
  • The calculation of energetic particles travelling along its magnetic field from the Sun implies that its shape could be more complicated than expected.
  • Images clicked from the corona reveal a more detailed look at its structure and how matter leaves the Sun and makes up the solar wind.

These initial outcomes show how data collected from the probe as many instruments could finally reveal some of the remaining secrets of the Sun.

One of the biggest questions regarding the solar wind and the corona has been how the Sun releases energy out into the corona, heat up into extreme temperatures and pushes solar wind to a faster speed. Scientists have predicted that magnetic fields have something to deal with it, but they are also unaware of how the Sun would be carrying that energy outward.

The probe came across several changes in the vibrations of a magnetic field near the Sun, which examined losing energy while moving outward. However, the findings are not yet conclusive, but possibly it could be heating the corona and accelerate the solar wind.

Physicist Justin Kasper of the University of Michigan was quoted saying that “I’m not saying we’re done. But it is pretty awesome that with these first encounters, we’re seeing something really new,” adding that “I think it is a really good indicator that we really are going to solve these big problems with this mission.”