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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe – First Spacecraft to Enter Sun’s Atmosphere

In this article, we will look into NASA’s Parker Solar probe historic visit to Sun’s Atmosphere that made it the first spacecraft ever that entered the Sun’s atmosphere. This probe was launched in the year 2018 with the mission of observing the outer corona of the Sun.

What is Parker Solar Probe

It is a NASA space probe launched in 2018 with the mission of making observations of the outer corona of the Sun.

About NASA

National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA is an independent US government agency that is responsible for the exploration of science and technology for the Civilian Space program. It was established in 1958 succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. From the time it started working to till now, it has launched more than 250 missions into Space and continuing to do so.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe - First Spacecraft to Enter Sun's Atmosphere

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe – First Spacecraft to Enter Sun’s Atmosphere

Parker Solar Probe was launched to explore the mysteries of the Sun by travelling closer to it than any spacecraft before. According to a report published by NASA, the parker solar probe crossed Alfvén critical surface on 28th April 2021 and hence becoming the first spacecraft to achieve this impossible feat in human history. This historical event will surely help the team of researchers and scientists to understand more about our Solar System star and may be other Stars in the Universe.

What is Alfvén critical surface

It is a point were gravity and magnetic fields of the Sun are too weak to contain solar material and thus marks the end of the solar atmosphere and beginning of the Solar wind.

Why It didn’t got heated

A very common question that everyone thinking about. When we know Sun’s atmosphere is at million degrees Celsius temperature then how it could be possible that probe managed to touch the atmosphere safely. Well, the answer is very simple. It is because of the thermal shield which is made up of carbon-composite material that can withstand temperature up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit or 1,377 degrees Celsius. This shield cuts into the Sun’s heat pushes the heat away, thus making a manageable temperature for the probe and its instruments.

Parker Solar Probe Instruments

The instrument that Parker Solar probe carried with itself are as follows:-

a) FIELDS

  • This instrument is known as Surveyor of the Invisible forces.
  • It will be used to capture the scale and shape of electric and magnetic fields in the Sun’s atmosphere.
  • FIELDS measures the electric field around the spacecraft with five antennas, four of which stick out beyond the spacecraft’s heat shield and into the sunlight, where they experience temperatures of 2,500 F.

b) WISPR

  •  The wide field imager for parker solar probe or WISPR is the only imaging instrument aboard the spacecraft.
  • WISPR uses the heat shield to block most of the Sun’s light, which would otherwise obscure the much fainter corona.

c) SWEAP

  • The Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons investigation, or SWEAP will be used to gather the count of most abundant particles in the solar wind using two complementary instruments – the Solar Probe Cup or SPC and the Solar Probe Analyzers, or SPAN.
  • SPC is what’s known as a Faraday cup, a metal device that can catch charged particles in a vacuum.
  • SPAN is composed of two instruments, SPAN-A and SPAN-B, which have wide fields of view to allow them to see the parts of space not observed by SPC.

d) ISʘIS

  • The Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun  or ISʘIS uses two complementary instruments in one combined scientific investigation to measure particles across a wide range of energies.
  • The two energetic particle instruments on ISʘIS are called EPI-Lo and EPI-Hi (EPI stands for Energetic Particle Instrument). More on NASA official website.

Objectives of Solar Probe

While the primary goal of the mission is to trace the sun’s flow of energy and understand the heating phenomenon of Corona but there are three specific objectives of this mission. Those are:-

  • Trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind.
  • Determine the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind.
  • Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles.

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