Parker Solar Probe

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    • Recently, a spacecraft launched by NASA has successfully touched the atmosphere of the Sun.

    About

    • The spacecraft plunged through the unexplored solar atmosphere known as the corona of the Sun
    • It made its way through an extreme environment which is roughly 2 million degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Thus, it has touched the place which was once thought to be impossible.

    Sun’s Corona

    • The Sun’s corona is the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere. 
    • The corona is usually hidden by the bright light of the Sun’s surface. That makes it difficult to see without using special instruments. 
    • However, the corona can be viewed during a total solar eclipse.

     

    Image Courtesy: Astronomy 

    • Facts: 
      • The surface of the Sun is covered in magnetic fields. This is the force that makes magnets stick to metal, like the door of your refrigerator.
      • The Sun’s magnetic fields affect charged particles in the corona to form beautiful features. These include streamers, loops, and plumes.
    • Corona causes solar winds:
      • The corona extends far out into space. From it comes the solar wind that travels through our solar system. 
      • The corona’s temperature causes its particles to move at very high speeds. 
      • These speeds are so high that the particles can escape the Sun’s gravity.

    Project Parker Solar Probe

    • Launch: 
      • This spacecraft was launched in the year 2018 to discover and explore the mysteries of the Sun by travelling closer to it. 
    • Aim: 
      • To make repeated and ever closer passes of the Sun.
    • Path: 
      • On 28 April, the Parker successfully entered and flew through the Sun’s upper atmosphere. 
      • It also sampled particles and magnetic fields that are situated on the surface of the Sun. 
      • By collecting particles from the Sun’s atmosphere, the spacecraft has also helped scientists in verifying the objective of the rocket ship that it indeed crossed into the corona.
    • Named after: 
      • It is named after American solar astrophysicist Eugene Newman Parker.
    • Alfvén’s Critical Velocity Hypothesis:
      • In his theory on the origin of the solar system, Alfvén makes an assumption which is central to the entire theory. 
      • This assumption is that when there is a relative velocity between a plasma and a neutral gas in the presence of a magnetic field, a strong ionization process will set in when the relative velocity reaches a critical value. 
      • Using this assumption, Alfvén has been able to predict fairly accurately the mass distribution of the planets and satellites in the solar system. 
    • Important feature: 
      • The Parker Solar Probe will not melt or burn up because it has been designed to withstand any extreme condition and temperature on the mission. 
      • Additionally, the spacecraft’s custom heat shield will help and protect the mission from the Sun’s intense light emission. 
      • It will also not allow the coronal material to “touch” the spacecraft.
    • Significance of the Parker Solar Probe:
      • The findings of the probe will enable scientists to forecast changes in the earth’s space environment.

    Source: Firstpost