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Anomalous whips and funnels on the Sun, which were discovered by a space probe

Anomalous whips and funnels on the Sun which were discovered by a space probe

(ORDO NEWS) — Unstable plasma waves, wandering magnetic fields, rains of charged particles and a system of rings – all this and much more was discovered by the Parker solar probe, approaching the luminary of our system.

The Parker probe has been on a nearly decade-long mission, orbiting the Sun and gathering insights into the mysteries that have puzzled physicists who have studied it for decades.

Scientists hope to find out why the sun’s atmosphere is millions of degrees hotter than its surface and what drives the solar wind, a stream of charged particles that rush through space.

Researchers are not yet ready to answer these questions. “We are exploring a completely new region. Questions that we would have asked a year ago become irrelevant after what we have already seen,” says Russell Howard, a physicist in charge of the probe’s chambers at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington.

Launched in 2018, the Parker probe is currently in an elliptical orbit that will fly past the Sun every 5 months at a distance of about 24 million kilometers, about half the distance from the Sun to its nearest planet. — Mercury.

Scientists have already “discovered several unexpected, intense, unstable plasma waves in the Sun’s atmosphere,” says physicist Justin Kasper of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

The data show that plasma flying into space changes its speed by almost 500,000 kilometers per hour in just a couple of minutes.

As a result, the waves have an S-shape, as if they were snapped like a whip. The origin of these waves is unclear. The probe recorded 800 such waves in 11 days already during the first passage.

Plasma at a distance of about 24 million kilometers above the surface of the Sun revolves around it much faster than expected. The researchers expected lateral speeds of several kilometers per second, but instead the probe recorded speeds of up to 50 kilometers per second.

This information will lead to a rethinking of the evolution of stars. As stellar winds spiral, they carry some of the star’s rotational energy with them, gradually slowing it down. Higher speeds could mean stars are spinning much faster than we thought.

The Parker seems to have helped unravel one mystery: the origin of the “slow” solar wind. Particles flying from the Sun form two streams, one of which moves twice as fast as the other.

Researchers already knew that fast particles originate near the Sun’s poles, emerging from funnel-shaped holes in the magnetic field known as coronal holes.

Now, thanks to Parker, it has become clear that slow particles fly out of small coronal holes that appear near the solar equator.

The data flow from Parker to Earth is uninterrupted. Magnetic “islands” of long-predicted plasma tubes have already been discovered, ejecting the energy and matter of the Sun into space.

Moreover, there is reason to believe that there is a system of rings around the Sun, since the probe found an area near it free of interplanetary dust.

Parker detected several small bursts of particles, mostly protons, coming from the Sun. According to David McComas of Princeton University, who studies the physics of sunlight, these particles can cause a tsunami of larger particles that are part of the solar wind. These bursts, by the way, were not detected by another probe located at a greater distance from the Sun.

The last three orbits of the Parker, starting in December 2024, will allow the probe to approach the star at a distance of only 6 million kilometers, which is seven times closer than during previous similar missions. Definitely, “Parker” will force scientists to rewrite textbooks.


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