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Scientists confirm Parker entered Sun’s corona in April 2021

Scientists yesterday announced that the Parker Solar Probe successfully entered the Sun’s corona for the first time during its April 2021 close fly-by.

More information here, including some excellent short movies made from images created by Parker’s instruments.

The top edge of the corona is dubbed the Alfvén surface, and Parker’s passage across that boundary three different times during the April ’21 fly-by revealed it to be a sharp boundary that also has a great deal of topography. From the second link:

The first time Parker passed the Alfvén surface was the longest; it flew through the atmosphere for about five hours. Even as it continued flying toward the Sun, though, it popped back out, only to submerge again more deeply when it was at its closest approach — but briefly, that time exiting after just half an hour. Then, on its way outward, the spacecraft once again skimmed beneath the surface for a few hours.

“[The Alfvén surface] has to be wrinkly,” Kasper says. “It’s not fuzzy — it’s well-defined while we’re under it — but the surface has some structure to it.” So while the probe sees a smooth change in conditions while crossing the boundary, where the boundary is can change. The reason for this wrinkly surface is still an open question, though the researchers suspect the crossing over a pseudostreamer lower in the corona pushed the boundary out to enable the first crossing.

What’s clear is that inside the Sun’s atmosphere, conditions are different than just outside. Parker saw plasma waves moving back and forth instead of flowing outward. That difference was visible not just to the SWEAP and FIELDS instruments, which measure particles and electric and magnetic fields, respectively, but also to the probe’s WISPR imager.

The Parker science team also indicated that the preliminary data from the probe’s next two fly-bys — the most recent in November that was the closest yet — suggest it passed through the corona then as well.

One of the biggest unsolved mysteries about the Sun’s corona is that it appears to have a temperature in the millions of degrees, far hotter than the Sun’s surface below, something that is counter-intuitive. The expectation was that the atmosphere would be cooler than the surface. Finding out why the corona is hotter is one of the main science goals of Parker. It appears the probe is finally gathering data that might help solve that mystery.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

4 comments

  • William

    I would like to land on the sun one day. Of course I would only go at night.

  • I did not know that the corona had a definite boundary; thinking of gas diffusion, and all. The videos were fantastic, and it’s not only the solar scientists finding out about the Sun.

  • Peter Monta

    It reminds me of Vernor Vinge’s Zones of Thought. If I remember correctly, the boundaries were said to be irregular and dynamic with a fractal dimension slightly larger than 2.

    Fortunately the Parker probe apparently still operates correctly in the “slow zone”.

  • Spectrum Shift

    What have we learned ? There’s more to “know” than we can possibly imagine.

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