Parker Probe: The world’s first spacecraft to ‘touch’ the sun, how it crossed 2 million degrees heat, what does it mean to achieve? Learn

World Desk, Amar Ujala, New York

Published by: Kirtivardhan Mishra
Updated to Wednesday, 15 December 2021 01:57 PM IST

Summary

Data collected from the Spacecraft Cup revealed that on April 28, the Parker probe crossed the outer surface of the Sun’s atmosphere three times. At least once every five hours. A letter describing the success of the solar probe was also published in the Physical Review Letter.

NASA's Parker Probe reveals many secrets of the sun.

NASA’s Parker Probe reveals many secrets of the sun.
– Photo: Amar Ujala / Himanshu Bhatt

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The US space agency NASA spacecraft ‘Parker Solar Probe’ has made an unprecedented feat of ‘touching’ the sun. The spacecraft achieved what was once considered impossible eight months ago, in April, but it took a long time for scientists to reach information from this spacecraft, which is millions of kilometers away in space. It took

This feat achieved by the spacecraft is receiving worldwide acclaim. However, it is very difficult for the common man to understand the significance of this mission. In such a situation, Amar Ujala is telling you what it means for a spaceship to get so close to the sun and how this success is going to change the face of solar science in the years to come.

Find out in advance what the goal of the Parker Solar Probe is?

NASA launched its Parker Soul Probe spacecraft on 12 August 2018. It is part of NASA’s ‘Living with a Star’ program, through which the agency aims to understand and gather information on various aspects of the solar-earth system. NASA says the information we get through the Parker probe will further enhance our understanding of the sun.

How was it possible to touch the sun?

A large team of scientists and engineers, including members of the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, are behind the practice. The team is engaged in the manufacture and monitoring of an important device installed in the probe – the ‘Solar Probe Cup’. The cup is a device used to collect particles in the Sun’s atmosphere, making it easier for scientists to understand that the spacecraft was successful in reaching the corona, the outer surface of the Sun’s atmosphere.

Data collected from the Spacecraft Cup revealed that on April 28, the Parker probe crossed the outer surface of the Sun’s atmosphere three times. At least once every five hours. A letter describing the success of the solar probe was also published in the journal ‘Physical Review Letter’. In it, the aircraft is described as having very specialized engineering.

Corona temperature 11 million degrees Celsius, how did the spacecraft cross it?

The temperature of the Sun’s atmosphere, also known as the corona, is about 1.1 million degrees Celsius (about 20 million degrees Fahrenheit). Such heat melts all visible matter on Earth in a matter of seconds. That’s why scientists have fitted special technology heat shields on the spacecraft that work to protect the spacecraft from the sun’s heat, even at temperatures of millions of degrees.

However, no heat shield is installed in the cup of the probe so that the information collected from the sun is accurate and clear. In such a situation, the device is made by combining high melting point materials such as tungsten, niobium, molybdenum and sapphire.

What does this success mean for science?

Not much information has been found so far about this star that gives light and heat to the Earth. Doubts arose, especially over the composition of the sun. Under such circumstances it is important for the Parker Solar Probe to enter the Sun’s atmosphere to unravel the mystery of the Sun.

For example, when the Sun’s temperature is estimated at 5500 degrees Celsius, scientists have not yet figured out why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is 2 million degrees Celsius hotter. Astrophysicists estimate that the sun’s heat creates magnetic fields around it, which multiply the sun’s energy and heat its surroundings by millions of degrees Celsius. But how the sun’s atmosphere absorbs this energy is still unclear.

Apart from this, the spacecraft will also help in gathering more information about electromagnetic radiation emitted from the sun and high-velocity solar winds (or thunderstorms). These two direct events have a direct impact on the earth and sometimes they cause problems in the power grids and radio communication on the earth. Scientists say that even in the near future beyond the corona and through the mission information about those secrets will be available, about which it is impossible to obtain data millions of kilometers away.

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