A Mission To Touch The Sun, With The Fastest Spacecraft In History - Physics-Astronomy.org

A Mission To Touch The Sun, With The Fastest Spacecraft In History

New York to Tokyo in less than a minute, that’s how fast NASA’s next mission to the Sun can go. Designed to study the solar atmosphere, the Parker Solar Probe will go closer to the Sun’s surface than any other spacecraft before it. Things are going to heat up real quick.

The solar windContrary to the surface temperature of the Sun which is ~6000 degrees Celsius, its outer atmosphere (the corona) is actually heated up to millions of degrees. And we don’t know exactly why. Such high temperatures result in a release of high energy charged particles (electrons, protons, alpha particles) from the corona, collectively called the solar wind.The charged particles in the solar wind carry the Sun’s magnetic field outward into the solar system with high speeds. As the Sun rotates, its magnetic field twists into a spiral, affecting the release of charged particles in a similar way. The Sun’s magnetic field is thus carried outward into the solar system in the form of an Archimedean spiral.When the charged particles in the solar wind approach the Earth, they first hit the Earth’s magnetosphere, the area where the Earth’s magnetic field is dominant. The solar wind disrupts the Earth’s magnetosphere as it compresses it on the day side and extends it on the night side. The Earth’s magnetosphere is thus shaped by the solar wind.The solar wind’s interaction with the Earth’s magnetosphere deposits high amounts of energy back to the Earth causing widespread changes to our atmosphere. One of the good effects of this interaction are beautiful Auroras.Solar storms and its effects on Earth
The solar wind often carries highly energized magnetic storms ejected from the Sun called solar flares, and occasionally even more energetic ones called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). The energy unleashed by these highly magnetized storms are equivalent to millions of hydrogen bombs.At this closest approach, the Parker Solar Probe will be the fastest spacecraft ever, no matter how you measure it. At its peak, the probe will go as fast as 700,000 km/hr, which is insane to even think about. New York to Tokyo in under a minute, Earth to the Moon in half an hour. Damn.Facing the Sun’s intense heat and radiation
Being so close to the Sun means facing its intense heat and radiation. In fact, the spacecraft will fly into the corona where the temperatures are of the order of a million degrees Celsius. Since the corona has a very low density though, most of the heat that the spacecraft faces will be from direct sunlight, which will still be hot, ~1400 degrees Celsius.


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