NASA has announced findings about the Sun gathered from the Parker Solar Probe, the agency said.
The Sun is revealing itself in dramatic detail and shedding light on how other stars may form and behave. The data, which is being shared for the first time in four new papers, illuminates previously unknown and only theorized characteristics of the volatile celestial neighbor.
The information Parker has uncovered about how the Sun constantly ejects material and energy will help scientists rewrite the models they use to understand and predict the space weather around our planet and understand the process by which stars are created and evolve. This information will be vital to protecting astronauts and technology in space.
The four papers, now available online from the journal Nature, describe Parker´s near-Sun observations through two record-breaking close flybys. They reveal new insights into the processes that drive the solar wind — the constant outflow of hot, ionized gas that streams outward from the Sun and fills up the solar system — and how the solar wind couples with solar rotation. Through these flybys, the mission has examined the dust of the coronal environment, and spotted particle acceleration events so small that they are undetectable from Earth, which is nearly 93 million miles from the Sun.
During its initial flybys, Parker studied the Sun from a distance of 15 million miles. That is already closer to the Sun than Mercury, but the spacecraft will get even closer in the future, as it travels at more than 213,000 mph, faster than any previous spacecraft.
Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA´s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency´s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA´s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built and operates the spacecraft.