NASA’s Parker Solar Probe enters Sun’s corona

Recently, a scientific paper revealed that, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe successfully entered the Sun’s Corona on April 28, 2021.

Highlights

  • Corona is the outermost layer of Sun’s atmosphere. Here, strong magnetic fields bind plasma as well prevent turbulent solar winds from escaping.
  • Prior to April 28, spacecraft had been flying just beyond the Alfven point.
  • The Alfven point is when solar winds become greater than critical speed and can break free of Sun’s corona and magnetic fields.

The Parker Solar Probe

Parker Solar Probe is a NASA space probe. It was launched on August 12, 2018. It was launched with objective of making observations of outer corona of the Sun. It reached to within 9.86 solar radii from Sun’s centre. By 2025, it will travel at closest approach. It is the first spacecraft to fly into low solar corona.

Background

This project was announced in 2009, at the cost of US$1.5 billion. The spacecraft was designed and built by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It is the first spacecraft by NASA, named after a living person. It has been named so to honour nonagenarian physicist Eugene Newman Parker.

Sun’s Corona

Sun’s corona is an aura of plasma surrounding it. It extends for millions of kilometres into outer space. Corona is easily visible during a total solar eclipse. It can also be observed with a coronagraph. As per spectroscopy measurements, there is a strong ionization in corona and the plasma temperature of 1000000 kelvin. It is much hotter as compared to surface of the Sun.

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