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Despite being the source of all life on Earth and the definitional center of the solar system, the sun is still something of an enigma. How fast does the solar wind blow? How do those particles streaming from the sun’s surface actually achieve liftoff? What’s going on in the corona, the sun’s atmosphere? Well, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is on its way to shed some light on those mysteries. This week the mission’s researchers released new results in the journal Nature—a tantalizing, preliminary look at our star. Some of the answers are there, along with a close-up look at subatomic particle events invisible from Earth. And more answers are coming in 2024, when the Parker Solar Probe enters it’s official “science orbit.” So in the plucky probe’s honor, here’s a journey through some of the existing stellar science. Grab your sunglasses.
Medium-sized solar flares like this burst of radiation captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory in 2013 generally don’t affect things back on Earth, but they can interfere with GPS satellites and other objects in orbit. It’s a small price to pay for beauty; these solar burps are also partially responsible for the atmospheric ionization that causes aurora events at Earth’s poles.
Space - Agency - PROBA2 - Satellite - Photo
The European Space Agency’s PROBA2 satellite captured this unusually detailed photo of the corona—plasma that can be millions of degrees hotter than the star’s actual surface.
This sunspot, captured in...
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