Parker Solar Probe by NASA

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 6, 2022, 14:12

For the first time in the history of space research, a spacecraft entered the sun's magnetic field and passed the outer atmosphere of the sun called the corona.

Parker Solar Probe will help scientists understand how the sun's atmosphere is affecting the earth. It will throw light on the crucial link between earth-sun.

What is Parker Solar Probe?

Nasa's robotic spacecraft Parker Solar Probe, previously known as solar probe plus, is the first-ever probe on the mission to touch the sun.

It is named after a living helio-physicist Eugene Parker. It was launched on 12 august 2018 by Johns Hopkins University's applied physics laboratory.

Facts about Parker Solar Probe

  • Parker Solar Probe will fly through the sun's atmosphere as close to 4 million miles to the sun, within the orbit of mercury which is more than 7 times close to any other spacecraft before.
  • The spacecraft is protected by a 4.5-inch thick carbon-composite heat shield to survive the vigorous heat near the sun area. This shield will help the spacecraft to protect its delicate instruments from extreme heat conditions. Advanced thermal engineering helps the spacecraft to go through a ruthless journey.
  • To gather information about the sun's atmosphere, the Parker Solar Probe will use Venus gravity during seven flybys over seven years. In seven years, the probe will complete 24 orbits around the sun.

Parker Solar Probe Significance

  • One of the mysteries of the sun is that the outer atmosphere, the corona is hotter than the surface of the sun itself. It is like the farther you go away from the sun's surface, the hotter it gets. Corona's temperature is around half a million more compared to the sun's surface.
  • Corona also propels the solar wind out into space with an accelerated speed that to beyond Pluto. This probe will answer these questions after gathering information.
  • The Parker Solar Probe's success will help scientists study the in-depth structure of the sun, the magnetic field, and the functioning of solar wind.

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Parker Solar Probe - Four major investigations

  • Fields Experiment (FIELDS) Fields experiment to measure the electric and magnetic fields and waves.
  • Integrated Science Investigation of the sun this investigation will determine the heavy ions and electrons and protons in the sun's atmosphere to find out the relationship with the solar wind.
  • Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR)- It comprises two telescopes to capture the images of the corona, inner heliosphere, and solar wind.
  • Solar wind Electrons Alpha protons (SWEAP) This investigation will find the velocity, density, and temperature of the most abundant particles present in the solar wind.
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Parker Solar Probe Scientific Objectives

This probe was planned by NASA to unravel the intriguing mysteries of the sun's atmosphere, corona, and the influence of space weather on life on earth.

So the major scientific objectives of PSP are

  • To study the flow of energy that accelerates corona and solar wind
  • Determine the structure and dynamics of magnetic fields
  • Explore the mechanics that accelerate and transport energetic particles.

The solar wind, flares, and highly magnetized materials try to enter the earth at a rapid speed of several million miles per hour. If entered into the earth, it can wreak havoc on earth. Scientists and researchers want to know how it works, and how it influences the earth. So, to collect accurate details, it is necessary to go close to the sun's surface and Parker Solar Probe is helping the scientists collect that essential information.

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FAQs on Parker Solar Probe

Q.1. Who is the principal investigator of Parker Solar Probe?

Marco Velli at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is the principal investigator of Parker Solar Probe.

Q.2. How will Parker Solar Probe bear the temperature of the sun's outer atmosphere, corona?

The temperature in corona can be high as 3.5 million degrees F (2 million degrees C). Parker Solar Probe is covered with a thick carbon shield to protect itself from vigorous heat. Sun's corona can be seen in the total solar eclipse only.

Q.3. Why won't Parker Solar Probe melt?

Parker solar probe is designed to survive in vigorous heat and extreme conditions. It is protected by a thick carbon composite white heat shield which will prevent the spacecraft and its delicate instruments to be melt in the million degrees temperature.

Q.4. How close will Parker Solar Probe get to the sun?

The Parker solar probe will go as close as 6.2 million kilometres or 3.9 million miles approx. to the sun to study the acceleration of solar wind and magnetic field.

Q.5. How is Eugen Parker related to Parker Solar Probe?

Eugen Newman Parker was an American solar physicist and plasma physicist who proposed the idea of the solar wind, nanoflares, and the spiral shape of the outer solar system's magnetic field. Based on this, Parker Solar Probe has got its name.