Parker Solar Probe Teams Up with Observatories Around the Solar System for Fourth Solar Encounter

  • Released Friday, June 12th, 2020
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:44PM

At the heart of understanding our space environment is the knowledge that conditions throughout space — from the Sun to the atmospheres of planets to the radiation environment in deep space — are connected.

Studying this connection – a field of science called heliophysics — is a complex task: Researchers track sudden eruptions of material, radiation, and particles against the background of the ubiquitous outflow of solar material.

A confluence of events in early 2020 created a nearly ideal space-based laboratory, combining the alignment of some of humanity’s best observatories — including Parker Solar Probe, during its fourth solar flyby — with a quiet period in the Sun’s activity, when it’s easiest to study those background conditions. These conditions provided a unique opportunity for scientists to study how the Sun influences conditions at points throughout space, with multiple angles of observation and at different distances from the Sun.

NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory Images the Solar Wind Jan. 21-23, 2020

NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, took extra images with longer exposure times to improve views of structure in the solar wind. These difference images, spanning Jan. 21-23, 2020, are created by subtracting the pixels of a previous image from the current image to highlight changes.


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NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory Watches the Sun Jan. 15 – Feb. 11, 2020

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory keeps a constant eye on the Sun. These images, captured in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, span Jan. 15 – Feb. 11, 2020.

Credit: NASA/SDO

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Substorm Observed in Poker Flat, Alaska, on Jan. 16, 2020

The Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar in Poker Flat, Alaska, makes 3-D measurements of electrons in Earth's upper atmosphere. These electrons are produced by the same process that produces aurora, seen here by the Poker Flat All-Sky Camera, which images aurora over Alaska, on Jan. 16, 2020.

Credit: Poker Flat Incoherent Scatter Radar (NSF)/Poker Flat All-Sky Camera (University of Alaska Fairbanks)/Don Hampton

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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. However, individual items should be credited as indicated above.


This visualization is related to the following missions: