Parker Science Result animations

  • Released Wednesday, December 4th, 2019
  • Updated Wednesday, November 15th, 2023 at 12:24AM
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On Dec. 4, 2019, four new papers in the journal Nature describe what scientists working with data from NASA's Parker Solar Probe have learned from this unprecedented exploration of our star — and what they look forward to learning next. These findings reveal new information about the behavior of the material and particles that speed away from the Sun, bringing scientists closer to answering fundamental questions about the physics of our star. These animations represent five of those findings.

The dynamic solar wind

Observed near Earth, the solar wind is a relatively uniform flow of plasma, with occasional turbulent tumbles. But by that point it’s traveled over ninety million miles — and the signatures of the Sun's exact mechanisms for heating and accelerating the solar wind are wiped out. Closer to the solar wind's source, Parker Solar Probe saw a much different picture: a complicated, active system.

Credit: NASA Goddard/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

Top-down view of Switchback Magnetic Fields

Parker indicated that the solar magnetic field embedded in the solar wind flips in the direction. These reversals — dubbed "switchbacks" — last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes as they flow over Parker Solar Probe. During a switchback, the magnetic field whips back on itself until it is pointed almost directly back at the Sun.

Credit: NASA Goddard/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

Switchback Closeup

Parker indicated that the solar magnetic field embedded in the solar wind flips in the direction. These reversals — dubbed "switchbacks" — last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes as they flow over Parker Solar Probe. During a switchback, the magnetic field whips back on itself until it is pointed almost directly back at the Sun. The spacecraft's approximate location is represented as a dot icon.

Credit: NASA Goddard/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

Solar Magnetic Field

Exactly where the solar wind transitions from a rotational flow to a perfectly radial flow has implications for how the Sun sheds energy. Parker located a transition region in the solar wind's flow. Finding that point may help us better understand the lifecycle of other stars or the formation of protoplanetary disks, the dense disks of gas and dust around young stars that eventually coalesce into planets. The spacecraft's approximate location is represented as a dot icon.

Credit: NASA Goddard/CIL/Jonathan North



Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab


Missions

This visualization is related to the following missions: