University of Michigan: Solving the Sun’s Super-Heating Mystery with Parker Solar Probe

Posted on 06/06/2019 12:11:31

It’s one of the greatest and longest-running mysteries surrounding, quite literally, our sun—why is its outer atmosphere hotter than its fiery surface?

University of Michigan researchers believe they have the answer, and hope to prove it with help from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. In roughly two years, the probe will be the first manmade craft to enter the zone surrounding the sun where heating looks fundamentally different than what has previously been seen in space. This will allow them to test their theory that the heating is due to small magnetic waves traveling back and forth within the zone.

“Whatever the physics is behind this superheating, it’s a puzzle that has been staring us in the eye for 500 years,” said Justin Kasper, a U-M professor of climate and space sciences and the principal investigator of the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) Investigation on the mission. “In just two more years Parker Solar Probe will finally reveal the answer.”

Read the entire article at the University of Michigan website.



Below are "first light" images from Parker Solar Probe's instruments, including SWEAP, released in Sept. 2018.

First light data from Parker Solar Probe's WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) instrument suite. The right side of this image — from WISPR's inner telescope — has a 40-degree field of view, with its right edge 58.5 degrees from the Sun's center. The bright object slightly to the right of the image's center is Jupiter. The left side of the image is from WISPR's outer telescope, which has a 58-degree field of view and extends to about 160 degrees from the Sun. There is a parallax of about 13 degrees in the apparent position of the Sun as viewed from Earth and from Parker Solar Probe.

First light data from Parker Solar Probe's WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) instrument suite. The right side of this image — from WISPR's inner telescope — has a 40-degree field of view, with its right edge 58.5 degrees from the Sun's center. The bright object slightly to the right of the image's center is Jupiter. The left side of the image is from WISPR's outer telescope, which has a 58-degree field of view and extends to about 160 degrees from the Sun. There is a parallax of about 13 degrees in the apparent position of the Sun as viewed from Earth and from Parker Solar Probe.
Credit: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe
High-Res Image

First light data from EPI-Lo (the lower-energy Energetic Particle Instrument), part of the ISʘIS (Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun) suite aboard Parker Solar Probe.

First light data from EPI-Lo (the lower-energy Energetic Particle Instrument), part of the ISʘIS (Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun) suite aboard Parker Solar Probe.
Credit: NASA/Princeton University/Parker Solar Probe
High-Res Image

First light data from EPI-Hi (the higher-energy Energetic Particle Instrument), part of the ISʘIS (Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun) suite aboard Parker Solar Probe.

First light data from EPI-Hi (the higher-energy Energetic Particle Instrument), part of the ISʘIS (Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun) suite aboard Parker Solar Probe.
Credit: NASA/Princeton University/Parker Solar Probe
High-Res Image

Data gathered during the FIELDS suite's boom deployment, measuring the magnetic field as the boom swung away from Parker Solar Probe. The early data is the magnetic field of the spacecraft itself, and the instruments measured a sharp drop in the magnetic field as the boom extended away from the spacecraft. Post-deployment, the instruments are measuring the magnetic field in the solar wind.

Data gathered during the FIELDS suite's boom deployment, measuring the magnetic field as the boom swung away from Parker Solar Probe. The early data is the magnetic field of the spacecraft itself, and the instruments measured a sharp drop in the magnetic field as the boom extended away from the spacecraft. Post-deployment, the instruments are measuring the magnetic field in the solar wind.
Credit: NASA/UC Berkeley/Parker Solar Probe
High-Res Image

This plot was updated on Sept. 21, 2018, to better illustrate the comparison between Parker Solar Probe’s data (center and bottom) and the data from the Wind mission (top).

This plot was updated on Sept. 21, 2018, to better illustrate the comparison between Parker Solar Probe’s data (center and bottom) and the data from the Wind mission (top).
Credit: NASA/UC Berkeley/Parker Solar Probe
High-Res Image

Early data from the Solar Probe Cup, part of the SWEAP (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons) instrument suite aboard Parker Solar Probe, showing a gust of solar wind (the red streak).

Early data from the Solar Probe Cup, part of the SWEAP (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons) instrument suite aboard Parker Solar Probe, showing a gust of solar wind (the red streak).
Credit: NASA/University of Michigan/Parker Solar Probe
High-Res Image

First light data from the SPAN-A (Solar Probe Analyzer Ahead) instrument aboard Parker Solar Probe, which is part of the SWEAP (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons) instrument suite. This data shows measurements of solar wind ions (top) and solar wind electrons (bottom).

First light data from the SPAN-A (Solar Probe Analyzer Ahead) instrument aboard Parker Solar Probe, which is part of the SWEAP (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons) instrument suite. This data shows measurements of solar wind ions (top) and solar wind electrons (bottom).
Credit: NASA/University of Michigan/Parker Solar Probe
High-Res Image


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