Just over a month into its mission, Parker Solar Probe has returned first-light data from each of its four instrument suites. These early observations – while not yet examples of the key science observations Parker Solar Probe will take closer to the Sun – show that each of the instruments is working well. The instruments work in tandem to measure the Sun's electric and magnetic fields, particles from the Sun and the solar wind, and capture images of the environment around the spacecraft. The mission’s first close approach to the Sun will be in November 2018, but even now, the instruments are able to gather measurements of what’s happening in the solar wind closer to Earth.
First light data from Parker Solar Probe's WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) instrument suite. The right side of this image — from WISPR's inner telescope — has a 40-degree field of view, with its right edge 58.5 degrees from the Sun's center. The bright object slightly to the right of the image's center is Jupiter. The left side of the image is from WISPR’s outer telescope, which has a 58-degree field of view and extends to about 160 degrees from the Sun. It shows the Milky Way, looking at the galactic center. There is a parallax of about 13 degrees in the apparent position of the Sun as viewed from Earth and from Parker Solar Probe.
Credit: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe
Data gathered during the FIELDS suite's boom deployment, measuring the magnetic field as the boom swung away from Parker Solar Probe. The early data is the magnetic field of the spacecraft itself, and the instruments measured a sharp drop in the magnetic field as the boom extended away from the spacecraft. Post-deployment, the instruments are measuring the magnetic field in the solar wind.
First light data from the SPAN-A (Solar Probe Analyzer Ahead) instrument aboard Parker Solar Probe, which is part of the SWEAP (Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons) instrument suite. This data shows measurements of solar wind ions (top) and solar wind electrons (bottom).
Credit: NASA/University of Michigan/Parker Solar Probe