Parker Solar Probe data complies with 20 years of theory

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US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Ongoing analysis of data from the Parker Solar Probe solar probe is starting to create a clearer picture of the Sun’s magnetic activity, which could strengthen our ability to predict dangerous solar events.

And the more information comes in, the more it is consistent with theories formulated at the turn of the millennium by researchers from the University of Michigan. Justin Casper, a professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the University of Michigan, said current and former researchers, led by Lennard Fisk, a professor of space science and a professor at the University of Michigan. Thomas M. Donahue, put together a complex picture of the work of the Sun long before Parker was launched in August 2018.

“This is not the same as collecting data and putting forward a theory that is consistent with them,” says Casper, who is Parker Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP )’s chief specialist. “This is perhaps an observational discovery arising in a theory that was put forward two decades ago.”

New data are summarized and compared with previous work in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The sensors on board the spacecraft gave data indicating:

– The solar atmosphere, consisting of plasma and magnetic fields, moves according to the general scheme of global circulation. The Parker solar probe can observe a small area at any given time.

– Near the Sun, the solar wind – the external flow of charged particles from the surface of the Sun – is accompanied by sharp changes in the direction of the magnetic field, called feedbacks, along which the solar wind moves at an accelerated speed.

– A global coronal magnetic field glides over the surface of the Sun through a process called interchange reconnection – when the closed loops of the magnetic field emerging from the surface of the Sun are explosively rearranged with open lines of the magnetic field that extend into the solar system.

Each of these points reveals the fundamental processes taking place in the sun, and this understanding has practical application here on Earth.

“This gives us an understanding of how the sun creates slow and fast solar winds,” Casper said. “The definition of this mechanism is the key to predicting when the transition from slow to fast solar wind will occur, which will hit the Earth and create a geomagnetic storm.”

These findings are consistent with predictions made in 1999 and 2001 in the research work of Fisk and his colleagues at the University of Michigan. One of them, Thomas Zurbuchen, is currently Deputy Director of the NASA Science Mission Directorate.

“It’s amazing to see that the Parker solar probe provides the missing piece of the puzzle to support and expand the ideas we first proposed almost 25 years ago,” said Zurbuchen. “When the Parker solar probe approaches the Sun, I can’t wait to see what answers and questions we will get next time.”


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