Parker Probe & Solar Orbiter tackled Sun’s corona mystery.
They collected simultaneous corona structure and plasma data.
Findings confirm turbulence heats solar plasma.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Solar Orbiter have performed a daring maneuver to help solve a long-standing mystery about the Sun: why its atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface.
The Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, is made up of electrically charged gas called plasma. It has a temperature of around one million degrees Celsius, while the Sun’s surface is only about 6000 degrees Celsius.
Scientists have been puzzled by this discrepancy for decades. One theory is that turbulence in the solar atmosphere could be heating the plasma. However, this theory has been difficult to test because it requires simultaneous measurements from multiple spacecraft.
That’s where Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter come in. On June 1, 2022, the two spacecraft performed a coordinated maneuver to capture the first-ever simultaneous measurements of the solar corona’s large-scale configuration and the plasma’s microphysical properties.
Parker Solar Probe flew through the corona, taking measurements of the particles and magnetic fields. Solar Orbiter positioned itself at a distance from the Sun and used its cameras to capture images of the corona in different wavelengths.
The data collected by the two spacecraft showed that the turbulence in the solar corona is indeed heating the plasma. The researchers compared the new results to the theoretical predictions solar physicists have made, and they found that the two match up well.
“This is a scientific first,” said Daniel Muller, Project Scientist for Solar Orbiter. “This work represents a significant step forward in solving the coronal heating problem.”
The researchers say that more work needs to be done to fully understand how turbulence is heating the solar corona. However, the new results are a major breakthrough in solving this long-standing mystery.
The successful maneuver by Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter is a testament to the power of international cooperation in space exploration. By working together, NASA and ESA are able to achieve great things and learn more about our universe.
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