NASA Parker Solar Probe could unravel Sun's unsolved mysteries

Sun from NASA Parker Solar Probe

Last year in August, NASA sent a spacecraft to the inner solar system to search for answers that scientists and researchers are searching for about the Sun named star in the center of our solar system. Now after more than a year, the probe has reached much closer to the sun ever reached by a human-made object ever and start decoding the sun’s mysteries.

NASA’s spacecraft sent to the sun is Parker Solar Probe, a car-sized vehicle designed to hold out against the temperatures of more than 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. It is equipped with instruments to study the sun that is protected with an extra hard heat shield that is designed to keep the spacecraft relatively cold when it reaches closer to the sun.

Adam Szabo, the mission scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for Parker Solar Probe told that “We got into the record books already,” as the Parker Probe already reached 15 million miles within the Sun — closer than Mercury and any other human-made object sent to the sun ever.

The first batch of the results and theories in four papers are published today in the journal Nature: Paper 1, Paper 2, Paper 3, Paper 4.


One type of event, in particular, caught the attention of the scientists – flips in the direction of the magnetic field, which flows out from the Sun, embedded in the solar wind and detected by the FIELDS instrument. These reversals – dubbed “switchbacks” – appear to be a very common phenomenon in the solar wind flow inside the orbit of Mercury, and last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes as they flow over the spacecraft.

The spacecraft also observed the first direct evidence of dust starting to thin out around 7 million miles from the Sun – an effect that has been theorized for nearly a century but has been impossible to measure until now. These observations were made using Parker’s Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) instrument, at a distance of about 4 million miles from the Sun. Scientists have long suspected that close to the Sun, this dust would be heated to high temperatures, turning it into a gas and creating a dust-free region around the star.

Finally, Parker’s Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (ISʘIS) energetic particle instruments have measured several never-before-seen events so small that all traces of them are lost before they reach Earth. These instruments have also measured a rare type of particle burst with a particularly high ratio of heavier elements – suggesting that both types of events may be more common than scientists previously thought.

There is more to understand the sun since the spacecraft is inching more and more close to the sun, more details will be announced soon.

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