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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe  

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Space

 Context: NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has discovered that “coronal holes” in the sun’s atmosphere are the source of the fast solar wind, released during the rapid realignment of magnetic fields.

 

Findings:

  • The probe revealed that coronal holes — darker, cooler regions that open in the sun’s outer atmosphere — are shaped like “showerheads” made up of mostly evenly spaced funnels of material.
  • Magnetic reconnection within funnel structures in coronal holes is responsible for generating the fast solar wind.

 

Significance of finding: By tracking the solar wind back to its origin, scientists can now better predict solar storms that can impact Earth’s communication and power infrastructure.

 

What is a Solar storm:

A solar storm refers to a disturbance on the Sun that releases a large amount of energy in the form of solar flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs), or high-speed solar winds. These events can cause disruptions in Earth’s magnetosphere, leading to geomagnetic storms that impact communication systems, power grids, and satellite operations.

 

About Parker Solar Probe

The Parker Solar Probe is a NASA spacecraft launched in 2018 to study the Sun up close. Its trajectory travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, closer to its surface than any previous spacecraft. The mission aims to unlock the mysteries of the Sun’s atmosphere, understand the solar storm, and investigate the processes that accelerate energetic particles.

 

Similar to Parker Solar Probe, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) is preparing to launch the Aditya-L1 mission, the first Indian space mission dedicated to studying the Sun and the solar corona. The mission will place a satellite in a halo orbit around the Lagrange point 1 (L1) of the Sun-Earth systems, located approximately 1.5 million km away from Earth. The Aditya-L1 mission aims to observe and gather valuable data about the Sun and its corona.