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Parker Solar Probe became the first human-made spacecraft that successfully reached the outer-most surface of the Sun called the 'Corona' to study solar activity data, predict accurate weather forecasting, and, most importantly, 'Solar Wind.'. NASA announced on Tuesday that the probe reached the Alfven Critical Surface of the Sun. Alfven's Critical surface is between the end of the solar atmosphere and the beginning of the solar wind. It was the first NASA mission named after the living individual, Eugene Parker, who studied how the star's including our Sun, give off an enormous amount of energy. The probe was designed at Johns Hopkins University and launched on August 12, 2018.
The main objective of the probe is to collect various information about the surface of the Sun and a detailed perspective about the multiple studies surrounding it.
- To collect the data on solar activity and trace the energy flow at the solar corona and solar wind.
- To measure the corona's temperature and how the solar wind is formed.
- To study the mechanisms that accelerate and transport the energetic charged particles.
- To forecast the significant weather and space events for further studies on the earth.
Design and Engineering
The "Solar Probe" concept originated sixty years ago, but the crafts manufactured could not withstand the temperature around that time. Due to technological advancement and thermal engineering, the thermal shields of carbon-composite materials around 160 pounds were designed and added to the Parker Solar Probe. These shields are sprayed with a specially formulated white coating to reflect the Sun's radiation. The design was created at Johns Hopkins University, tested the thermal protection system.
The parker solar probe is projected to revolve around the corona of the Sun until the year 2024 and is estimated to reach the surface twenty-one times. After that, the spacecraft will get 3.83 million miles near the surface in the remaining three years, a minimal distance in space, and encounter different small objects like comets and asteroids. NASA stated that the total expense for the project's development is around 1.5 billion dollars. The maximum observations until now have covered the dust particle near the Sun, giving information about the heliosphere, which was a mystery until now.
Surfaces of the Sun
There are four different surfaces of the Sun classified as: 'Corona,' 'Chromosphere,' 'Photosphere,' and 'Core.' These parts mainly consist of plasma and charged particles.
- Corona: The corona is the outer-most part of the Sun's atmosphere which consists large concentration of energy due to the nuclear fusion between hydrogen and helium atoms. It is challenging to see corona without any special instruments as it is usually hidden by the bright light of the Sun. But, during the total solar eclipse, it is visible as the moon blocks the shining part of the Sun; the glowing white corona can be seen.
- Chromosphere: The chromosphere is a thin bright red layer of the Sun derived from the Greek word chromos, meaning color. The highest emission in the chromosphere is H-alpha emission which is the reason behind the reddish-brown representation. The temperature differs from 6,000-20,000 degrees Celsius, and its edges are covered by jets of dense gas with high magnetic fields defined as 'spicules.'
- Photosphere: The photosphere is the visible region of the Sun and where most of the Sun's energy is emitted in the form of visible and infrared radiations. The plasma is less dense in this region, and the photons can escape into the space, making it visible. This region is slightly more relaxed than the chromosphere and has a temperature of 5,500 degrees Celsius.
- Core: The core is the central region of the Sun, where the energy is produced through fusion and is the hottest part of the Sun and the entire Solar system 'having a temperature of around fifteen million-degree Celsius.' Two spherical shells surround the core, 'radiative zone' the energy is carried outwards by the photons as thermal radiation and 'Convection zone' above the radiative zone where the heat moves upward like a boiling pot is heated at the bottom.
© 2021 Shubham Kadariya