January 17, 2022

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What can we learn from the Parker Solar Probe that first touched the sun

We have “Touched the Sun”. NASA released this announcement on Tuesday, December 14th, announcing that the Parker Solar Probe is approaching our star like never before. Launched in August 2018 at a speed of 500,000 km / h, the engine reached the solar corona 15 million kilometers from the Sun’s surface. She crossed the symbolic boundary known as the Alfven Border. In other words, the Parker Solar Probe has entered the direct vicinity of our star. This is a historic achievement because never before has a man-made object come so close.

In fact, the study broke its own record in October 2018 when it approached 42.73 million kilometers from the Sun. It’s not over: the study is approaching our star (now it is 13 million kilometers away). Francinefo summarizes what the Parker Solar Probe can reveal to humans living on Earth.

Mechanisms of astonishing warming of the solar corona

This is a puzzle that has puzzled astronomers for decades: why is the temperature around the sun higher than its surface? Normally, the temperature should scatter as it moves away from our star, but this is not observed. In fact, the temperature at the Sun’s surface rises to 5500 C, while at the outermost part of its atmosphere it reaches 1 million C in its corona. This crown is visible during a solar eclipse and, as shown in this photo, appears on a gradient from white to gray.

Photo of the Sun and its corona taken during a total solar eclipse seen in Hopkinsville, Kentucky (United States) on August 22, 2017 (Joseph Mates / MSFC / NASA)

Scientists agree that the solar corona heats up automatically and that different mechanisms work. “We have not yet reached the hotspot”Dutok de Witt, researcher at the Frances Info Theory in the Physics and Chemistry Laboratory of the Environment and Space at Orleans (Lower), is directly involved in the work on the Parker Solar Probe.

Scientists will know in 2025 when the probe will be closest to the Sun, 7 million kilometers from its surface. With caution, Theory Dutok de Witt believes the results will not come before this “for many years”.

Kinetics of solar flares

Our star produces solar wind. The flow of these particles is very weak, “A plasma, which is composed mainly of electrons and protons but of ions”, To explain Paris Observatory. But the sun also experiences tremors. It rejects large quantities of material. We are talking about coronal mass ejection (CME), which is commonly referred to as solar flares. Our star then emits more energetic particles at very high speeds.

When are these Particle discharges When they reach Earth, they form the aurora borealis (or australis, depending on the hemisphere where the observer is located). If the eruptions are very violent, we are talking about solar storms. “Rash is often small, but sometimes large”, Clarified 3 Center Wall-de-Lower Theory in France by Dutok de Wit. They It can then disrupt the operation of electrical and electronic devices on earth, especially our GPS installations and the means of communication via radio, the Internet or our laptops.

As the use of these technologies increases, these events are being taken seriously by the scientific and international community. “Transpolar planes sometimes lose all contact with the ground during these explosions.”, Explained Theory Tudok de Wit. Strong solar storms can have dramatic effects. On July 23, 2012, extraordinarily powerful “Send Contemporary Civilization Back to the 18th Century” If this had happened a week ago, NASA would have said in 2014.

It is essential to understand the wind dynamics of our star and to make solar weather forecasts that anticipate the frequency and intensity of eruptions. And Parker’s solar prophecy observations prove to be just as decisive, as the first results, released in 2019, have already provided important elements against consensus hypotheses.

“Experts all imagined solar air as a relatively quiet and evenly flowing liquid in all directions. But we found that it was nothing else.”

Theory Dutok de Wit

to franceinfo

“The elements that make up the solar wind must have a very precise behavior in terms of displacement and velocity. However, we find that the Sun is very different from what we observe near the Earth.”, Theory refers to Tudok de Wit. “This is the whole point of having a tool on site”, He insists, and go into the crown, “The zone that distinguishes between the moment when the wind is actually in contact with the sun and the moment when the wind leaves in a free way”.

Valuable information about the stars

Theory Dudok de Witt underscores that if Parker Solar Probe observations were about our Sun, they would also help us better understand other stars.

“Researchers have observed that the corona orbits the Sun faster than expected, which could affect our general understanding of the rotation of stars.”, Explained CNRS, In 2019, after the release of the first results. However, the study of the rotation of stars is crucial in calculating their age. Recalled in April by the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission (THE).

“This is interesting because we want to not only see things through the lens we are interested in, but also make decisions beyond our domain.”, Concludes Theory Dudok de Wit.

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