Parker Solar Probe: Fared Better Than Icarus

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(NASA/Johns Hopkins APL)

NASA’s Sun-Orbiting Probe Reveals New Secrets of Our Host Star

by Jason Daley/Smithsonian.com

On August 2018, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe toward the sun to analyze and measure the G-type yellow dwarf star that makes life on Earth possible. Now, after the spacecraft completed 3 of 24 planned close orbits around the sun, researchers have released four papers published in the journal Nature detailing the probe’s first findings.

The $1.5 billion probe has flown closer to the sun than any spacecraft in history, passing through the sun’s upper atmosphere, or corona, for the first time. The probe is loaded up with several suites of instruments that collect data about solar wind, plasma flows, the sun’s magnetic field and more, reports Alexandra Witze at Nature News & Comment.

Scientists at University of California, Berkeley led by plasma physicist Stuart Bale control the probe’s devices, fittingly dubbed FIELDS, that study the sun’s magnetic and electric fields. A second toolkit called SWEAP—or Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons, operated by the University of Michigan and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory—measures the particles of solar winds. The probe’s imaging instrument WISPR is led by the Naval Research Lab. Another group of devices—called the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun suite,……

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