The navigation for NASA's Parker Solar Probe is led by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the Pasadena, California office, which also plays a role in two of the four instrument suites onboard the spacecraft. Parker Solar Probe flies closer to the sun than any other spacecraft and the solar corona itself.
One instrument, called the Energetic Particle Instrument-Hi (EPI-Hi), will investigate the mysteries of superfast solar particles that rage to Earth, close to the speed of light. Observations by the Parker Solar Probe will lead to better predictions of space weather and will address fundamental mysteries about the dynamic corona of the Sun. EPI-Hi is part of the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun, led by Principal Investigator David McComas of Princeton University in New Jersey.
"We are going to explore a region that has never been visited before," says Mark Wiedenbeck, the lead researcher for the EPI-Hi instrument and one of JPL's most important researchers. "We have ideas about what will be found, but the most important results can very well come from observations that are completely unexpected."
Of particular interest to the EPI-Hi team is the unsolved mystery of how a small proportion of the charged particles of the sun reach near-light speeds. These particles, protons, electrons, and heavy ions can reach the earth in less than an hour, creating threats to space weather for people and hardware in space.
Until now, remote scientists have been observing the effects of what is happening in the vicinity of the sun. Now that the Parker Solar Probe is on its way to fly through the region where it is happening, scientists are convinced that they will obtain new clues and insights into the process.
The EPI-Hi instrument consists of stacked silicon detectors designed to hold high-speed particles and measure their energy. Some of the detectors are very thin, the thinnest being about one eighth of the thickness of a standard sheet of paper. For the detectors to perform the required measurements, the thickness of these detectors could vary by no more than one hundredth of the thickness of a sheet of paper.
Another tool on Parker Solar Probe – the Wide-Field Imager for Solar Probe Plus (WISPR) – is the only camera onboard the spacecraft. Images of the corona and inner heliosphere of the sun will be needed.
The imager has two telescopes that capture images of the solar wind, shock waves and other coronal structures as they approach and pass the spacecraft. WISPR offers a very wide field of view, stretching from 13 degrees from the center of the sun to 108 degrees away.
"If you saw the solar eclipse of last August, you saw the corona of the sun, that is our destination. Wispr will take images of the corona as it passes through it." The images will help us with the morphology, speed, acceleration and density of evolving solar wind structures when they are close to the sun, "said JPL scientist Paulett Liewer, member of the WISPR science team, WISPR's chief investigator is Russell Howard of the WISPR. Naval Research Laboratory.
In guiding Parker's navigation efforts, JPL assists with the implementation of the mission's innovative trajectory, developed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, which built and operated the spacecraft for NASA. The Parker Solar Probe uses seven Venus flybys for almost seven years to gradually reduce its orbit around the sun, as close as 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) to the sun, well within the orbit of Mercury and about seven times closer to the sun than any spacecraft.
In addition, the Parker Solar Probe Observatory Scientist, principal investigator Marco Velli, a UCLA professor, holds a part-time appointment as Heliophysics Liaison at NASA at JPL.
The Parker Solar Probe was launched on 12 August 2018 on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy Rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The findings of the mission will help researchers improve their predictions of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and astronauts in orbit around the earth, disrupt radio communications and, on their most serious, overwhelm electricity networks.
Parker Solar Probe at APL
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily
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Crystalline silica in meteorite brings scientists closer to understanding the evolution of the sun
Tokyo, Japan (SPX) August 23, 2018
A team of researchers from Waseda University, the Graduate University for Advanced Studies, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the University of Harvard, and the National Institute for Polar Research discovered mineral quartz from silica in a primitive meteorite, becoming the first in the world providing direct evidence of silica condensation in the solar protoplanetary disk and comes a step closer to understanding the formation of the sun and its evolution.
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