Solar Orbiter Probe Will Take the Most Detailed Photos of Our Bright Star: How Is that Possible?
Recently, a new space tool has been launched, which promises to reveal many secrets about the processes of our Sun. The Solar Orbiter probe passed half the distance from Earth to the Sun and began to obtain the first images to collect a whole set of data on the state of the star and its surrounding space.
What Is Known About Solar Orbiter?
Developed by engineers from the European Space Agency, which provide the most professional global engineering services in the world, Solar Orbiter is equipped with 10 different onboard instruments. Therefore, seven different cameras provide a close-up view of the star. At the same time, a better understanding of the star and its system still remains the main goal of the mission. According to the authors of the scientific work in the official press release of the study, only a small part of the solar spectrum can be seen in photographs taken from the surface of the Earth.
In turn, from space, you can see a much more detailed picture. The current position of Solar Orbiter is the first time in the history of observations when all the onboard devices operate at such a distance from the Sun.
The solar wind is a stream of ionized particles of helium-hydrogen plasma, which is formed as a result of thermonuclear reactions on the Sun. A star emits these particles and they spread throughout the solar system. It is the solar wind that invokes such phenomena as magnetic storms and auroras.
The Sun: What to Study?
The sun is an active star whose magnetic field (carried by a constant stream of matter) spreads throughout the solar system. The solar wind affects spacecraft. Therefore, the environment of the worlds throughout the system has been formed by means of a solar wind. Researchers have been observing the Sun and the planets closest to the Earth for decades. Even the remotest edges of the sphere have been studied for a long time. In this regard, the NASA Parker Solar Probe was launched in 2018, which, ultimately, would fly at a distance of about 6 million kilometers from the visible surface.
According to NASA , the spacecraft passed directly between the Sun and the Earth during the last (fourth) collision with the Sun. It is worth noting that the last collisions occurred in January and February 2020. This provided a great chance to scientists: the solar wind that Parker has measured being closest to the Sun will arrive on Earth in a few days, where the wind itself and its effects can be measured both by spacecraft and observatories. Besides, ground-based observatories will have a clear idea ofthe location of objects that produce solar wind.
Despite the apparent similarity, the missions of Parker and Solar Orbiter should not be confused. Obviously, the first device does not possess cameras that are responsible for taking photos, while the second one will eventually approach the Sun. Anda distance should be equal to 42 million kilometers. The research missions of both probes are also very different from each other.
Taking into consideration previously obtained data, certain structures exist on or near the surface. To understand exactly how they are formed, develop, and find out what contribution they make to the plasma dynamics in the solar wind, it is a must to look at the initial regions of these structures.
What Did the Parker Solar Probe find?
Parker is now at a distance of about 24 million km from the Sun - it is closer than the average distance from a star to Mercury. The device is already at a shorter distance than the record-breaking Helios-2 mission launched in 1976.
The probe moves at the maximum speed that the man-made apparatus has ever been able to develop. It is equal to about 342.79 thousand km / h. The device has already sent several data packets to Earth. Based on these data, scientists from NASA wrote four scientific articles on Sun behavior.
“This completely new information about how our star works will help us understand how the sun is changing the space environment in our entire solar system,” said Professor Nicholas.
Solar Wind Formation
Parker has already given scientists new data on the movement of the solar wind - it turned out that it moves in a completely different way than was thought. Using the apparatus, astronomers first saw how the magnetic field of the solar wind changes by 180° near the surface. This process accelerates flows to giant speeds in a short time.
Scientists believe that magnetic field reversals, the so-called reverse switching, play a decisive role in heating the solar corona. As a result, there is a short bombardment of the Earth by a very fast stream of the solar wind - then its speed decreases to normal values. Understanding this process will make it possible to clarify space weather forecasts and secure satellites and radio devices.
Dust in the Wind
The probe also first discovered evidence of a decrease in interplanetary dust particles that fill the solar system next to a star. This effect was predicted by theorists almost 100 years ago, but scientists have not been able to observe it.
The data collected by Parker showed that at a distance of about 24 million km from the Sun, particles of cosmic dust become smaller in size, and at a distance of about six radii, the stars disappear altogether. The theory says that particles are either completely destroyed by radiation, or fly out of this area with the solar wind.
At the same time, a zone completely free of dust is not available for direct observation of the probe. It is assumed that it will be possible to confirm its existence in about a year. Obviously, to succeed in this mission, many talented experts and engineers have to proceed with hard work and apply their knowledge in practice. It is worth admitting that most teams consist of engineers who have been hired around the world and proved their possibility to work appropriately. More often than not, big companies hire engineering contractors at Engre marketplace to be sure that they have found truly dedicated professionals and experts.
Therefore, the onboard devices of Solar Orbiter will collect preliminary data on the solar corona, particles inside the solar wind, star surface, heliosphere, and magnetic field.
The trajectory of the Solar Orbiter will allow us to study the solar poles that are not directed to the Earth. It is planned that the mission will not be completed until November 2021.