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  • The Parker Solar Probe team is kind of blowing everyone away with some unprecedented findings

  • about the behavior of our sun,

  • solar wind and the star’s peculiar magnetic field.

  • Since its launch in 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has been busy collecting data to help

  • answer some of the biggest unsolved mysteries about the star at the center of our solar system.

  • As a refresher, Parker is a highly specialized craft that is capable of getting us closer

  • than ever to its surface.

  • This new batch of record-breaking data was collected by the probe between late 2018 and

  • April 2019 after completing just two of its 24 planned flybys, where it managed to get

  • just 38 million km away from the star.

  • So far, the Parker team have been focused on measuring the behavior of the solar wind,

  • the Sun’s constant outflow of charged particles.

  • While these solar particles do eventually reach our humble blue planet, they really

  • can’t tell us much about the solar wind and the complex systems on the surface of

  • the Sun.

  • So what exactly has Parker found that’s got everyone so excited?

  • Well, from its close vantage point to the Sun, the new data collected has presented

  • the possible source forslowsolar wind, a phenomenon that has been a long-standing

  • mystery within the scientific community.

  • Not to be confused with fast solar wind, which scientists know a lot more about.

  • These winds travel between 500 and 1,000 kilometers per second and they come from large coronal

  • holes at the sun's north and south poles.

  • Slowsolar wind, on the other hand, moves at speeds less than 500 km per second,

  • and its source has remained unknown until now.

  • After spending roughly a week observing the coronal holesareas of colder, darker low-density

  • plasmaParker was able to strongly correlate coronal holes located near the Sun's equator,

  • to the origin of slow solar wind.

  • But that wasn’t the most surprising part!

  • Parker also revealed a previously unknown feature of the solar wind.

  • The probe’s measurements found rapid reversals in the direction of the magnetic field, which

  • moves outward from the sun embedded in the solar wind.

  • Known as switchbacks, these phenomena bend back on themselves in moments that can last

  • anywhere from several seconds to several minutes.

  • Parker observed that these switchbacks occurred quite frequently, causing the slow winds to accelerate

  • to form long tubes of fast wind containing plasma with around twice the energy of the

  • background solar wind.

  • Researchers are speculating that these energetic bursts could help explain why the Sun’s

  • atmosphere is so much hotter than its surface.

  • But more research is needed before we're able to know for sure.

  • All of this is to say that this brand new information is making us completely rethink

  • the physics of the Sun.

  • Scientists hope that Parker's subsequent flybys and further data analysis will help them build

  • models to understand and predict space weather in order to better protect astronauts and

  • avoid disruption in our satellites and electrical grid systems.

  • So what we learned from Solar Probe will definitely play very seriously into our understanding

  • of space weather, of the dynamics of the Earth's magnetic field,

  • the communication networks, the power grid on Earth is an extraordinary, complex electromagnetic system.

  • And so having big disturbances from the Sun that can generate large currents in our power

  • grid, in our communications grid, is potentially a very serious thing.

  • Now Parker's data on the solar wind and weird magnetic field wasn't the only thing that

  • took scientists by surprise.

  • It has long been suspected that the area around the Sun is completely void of cosmic dust.

  • That's the stuff left over by celestial collisions from the formation of our galaxy.

  • The long-held theory suggested that as dust approaches the star, it’s heated to high

  • temperatures and turned into a gas, resulting in a dust-free zone

  • at roughly three to 4.8 million km away from the Sun.

  • And the Parker probe just found the very first evidence of this cosmic phenomenon.

  • Its imaging instrument WISPR looked out onto large sections of the corona and solar wind,

  • observing dust that started to thin out at roughly 11 million km and this decrease continued

  • until WISPR hit its limit of what it could measure, at around six million km from the Sun.

  • Scientists expect to explore this preliminary finding in more detail as early as 2020.

  • As Parker continues on its fourth flyby of the Sun, what’s really amazing is that all

  • this data came from the spacecraft’s first two flybys, so who knows what theyll find next.

  • Especially since Parker still has 21 more approaches to the Sun, and by the end of its

  • journey in 2025, it will have completed three full orbits, coming within roughly six million

  • kilometers from the Sun’s surface.

  • The hope is that Parker will continue to bring scientists one step closer in decoding some

  • of the key mysteries about our Sun and for Bale and his team, they simply can’t wait.

  • We wrote our proposal to NASA about a decade ago and we've been working essentially around the clock.

  • And so to see this data, it's just a pleasure.

  • I mean the data is so spectacular.

  • It's a big case of delayed gratification, but it's really terrific stuff.

  • If you want to learn more about the Parker Solar Probe, check out this episode here.

  • So what else do you think the Parker Solar Probe will find?

  • Let us know in the comments below.

  • Make sure to subscribe and thanks for watching.

The Parker Solar Probe team is kind of blowing everyone away with some unprecedented findings

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最初の結果はNASAの太陽の最接近フライバイから (The First Results Are in From NASA’s Closest Flyby of the Sun)

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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