You know, for how often we see the Sun, theres an awful lot we dont know about it.
I mean, we know its powered by nuclear fusion, that its 92.96 million miles away, and that its about a million times bigger than the Earth by volume.But theres more to it than that. Like, why is its corona so hot? How does the Sun make solar wind? How does it give Superman his powers?
Luckily, NASA is hard at work answering some of these questions.
In August 2018, NASA launched a mission to touch the Sun. Its called the Parker Solar Probe, and its designed to withstand super-high temperatures. Over the next few years, itll swoop around the Sun several more times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it.
And it will actually fly through the Suns corona, which is the wispy outer layer thats visible during a solar eclipse. Thats nuts because the corona is incredibly hot millions of degrees Fahrenheit. Turns out the surface of the Sun is only a few thousand degrees.
The probe will also take measurements of the hot, electrically charged plasma that comes off of the Suns corona and streams through space, called solar wind. These winds are what cause auroras on Earth and on other planets, too.
One of the biggest things researchers hope to learn is how the Sun transports energy into the corona in the first place. How is it so hot? And how does it push the solar wind out at such high speeds? Scientists have suspected that magnetic fields have something to do with it, but they dont know exactly what.
The probe has already made a few laps around the Sun and reported back. So far, Parkers found out that there are dramatic changes in the vibrations of the magnetic fields coming from the Sun, which seem to get weaker as they get farther away. Though the findings arent yet conclusive, its possible that these magnetic interactions are whats heating the Suns corona and accelerating the solar wind.
The other super rad thing weve gotten from the Parker Solar Probe are some sound clips. Lets listen.
What were hearing is the solar wind. Thats the whooshing and whistling noises.
Now, this isnt literally sound, like we think of it on Earth. Theres no microphone on board the solar probe. Instead, its measuring the frequencies and amplitudes of the pressure waves in the solar wind.
And that is kind of like sound because here on Earth, we hear pressure waves as sound. So all the researchers had to do was translate the waves that the probe measured into the types of waves we can hear.
I dont know, Im counting it.
So different sounds are produced by different types of particles doing different things, like, if a beam of electrons streams along a magnetic field.
Or, if electrons spin around a magnetic field.
So, anyway, the researchers werent just looking for some sweet new space sound effects. Theyre going to look into these data some more and see if they can learn about how the hot corona and the solar wind work.
Scientists are stoked about these initial results. Theyre really hopeful that more data from the Parker Solar Probe will spill some of the Suns remaining secrets.
By the way the Sun does make actual sound. We just cant hear it because space is a vacuum, so the sound waves dont have a way of getting to us. But if we could hear the constant roar, itd be pretty loud, even from here. One heliophysicist crunched the numbers and estimates the noise would be around 110 decibels, or about the same volume as speakers at a rock concert.
Im suddenly really glad space is a vacuum.
Anyway, the Parker probe isnt the only way were getting new info about the Sun.
Just a few days ago, the European Space Agency and NASA successfully launched a joint Solar Orbiter a new mission on its way to go check out the Sun.
And lets not forget the good ol fashioned telescope.
In fact, the new Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii the biggest solar telescope on Earth has taken its first video footage of the Sun. These new shots are the highest-resolution views of our star yet, showing details on the Suns surface as small as 18 miles across.
On the Sun, hot plasma rises to the surface, cools and sinks back down in a process called convection, like water boiling in a pot. The grainy pattern you see are these cells of plasma, which turn over about every five minutes.
The brightest spots are the hottest, where new plasma has just risen up from below. And the darker spots are where cooler plasma is sinking down. These plasma cells are roughly the size of Texas.
The bubbling motions are important for researchers to study because plasma is electrically charged, so its motions can create magnetic fields. And its the Suns magnetic fields that are responsible for some of its most dynamic behavior, like solar storms, which can mess with satellites and power grids on Earth.
The new telescope can also do more than take pretty pictures. Its got all sorts of instruments that can measure information about the magnetic forces in the Suns atmosphere.
With all this new information, scientists are closer than ever to figuring out how, exactly, our Sun keeps on shining.
Anna Funkis associate editor for Astronomy's sister magazine, Discover. Follow her on Twitter @DrAnnaFunk and check out ourYouTube channel for more videos.
This video is based on reporting by Erika K. Carlson and Nathaniel Scharping.
Read this article:
- The Sky This Week from May 22 to 29 - Astronomy Magazine - May 24th, 2020
- What's happening to Pluto's atmosphere - Astronomy Magazine - May 24th, 2020
- Astronomers find the Wolfe Disk, an unlikely galaxy, in the distant universe - CNN - May 24th, 2020
- In an orange swirl, astronomers say humanity has its first look at the birth of a planet - NBCNews.com - May 24th, 2020
- Astronomers May Have Spotted a Tiny Moon in The Outer Solar System - ScienceAlert - May 24th, 2020
- Here's your chance to spot Mercury, as it cosies up to Venus this weekend - Astronomy Now Online - May 24th, 2020
- WFIRST Will be Named After Nancy Grace Roman, NASA's First Chief Astronomer - Universe Today - May 24th, 2020
- Columbia Astronomer Estimates the Odds of Extraterrestrial Life and Intelligence Emerging in Alien Worlds - SciTechDaily - May 24th, 2020
- How Many Galaxies Are There? Astronomers Are Revealing the Enormity of the Universe - Discover Magazine - May 24th, 2020
- Hot Super-Earth Discovered Orbiting Ancient Star | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - May 19th, 2020
- Why astronomy matters in times of crisis | Cosmos - Cosmos - May 19th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from May 15 to 22 - Astronomy Magazine - May 19th, 2020
- Observe edge-on and face-on galaxies | Astronomy.com - Astronomy Magazine - May 19th, 2020
- Hunting The Secrets Of The Universe In Pajamas, Astronomers Go Back To Work - Hawaiipublicradio - May 19th, 2020
- Technology, international bonds, and inspiration: why astronomy matters in times of crisis - The Conversation AU - May 15th, 2020
- Is the Big Bang in crisis? | Astronomy.com - Astronomy Magazine - May 15th, 2020
- How a long-gone Apollo rocket returned to Earth - Astronomy Magazine - May 15th, 2020
- UK Physics and Astronomy Receives Prestigious REU From NSF - UKNow - May 15th, 2020
- Jupiter, Moon, and Saturn to align together for a rare astronomical occurrence on May 12 - Republic World - Republic World - May 15th, 2020
- What is Astronomy? Definition & History | Space - May 4th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from May 1 to 8 - Astronomy Magazine - May 4th, 2020
- Scientists keep debunking 'monster black hole' discovery. So, what's the deal with binary system LB1? - Space.com - May 4th, 2020
- A hundred thousand supernovae - Astronomy Now Online - May 4th, 2020
- 9 out of This World Astronomy Projects You Can Do While at Home - Smash Newz - May 4th, 2020
- How Hubble opened our eyes to the universe's first galaxies - Astronomy Magazine - May 4th, 2020
- Celebrate National Astronomy Day with The Bishop Museum - Sarasota - May 4th, 2020
- The secrets to stargazing from your backyard - The Guardian - May 4th, 2020
- Astronomers have spotted the most powerful supernova ever - New Scientist News - May 4th, 2020
- International Astronomy Day 2020: All You Need to Know - News18 - May 4th, 2020
- Our Sun is magnetically quiet compared to other stars. But why? - SYFY WIRE - May 4th, 2020
- The Night Sky This May: Here are the Top Astronomy Events You Can See This Month - Tech Times - May 4th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from April 24 to May 1 - Astronomy Magazine - April 26th, 2020
- Astronomers Find a Six-Planet System Which Orbit in Lockstep With Each Other - Universe Today - April 26th, 2020
- Astronomers Have Watched a Nova Go From Start to Finish For The First Time - ScienceAlert - April 26th, 2020
- Hubble watches a suspected exoplanet disappear before its very eyes - Astronomy Magazine - April 24th, 2020
- Astronomers Watch a Nova Go From Start to Finish for the First Time - Universe Today - April 24th, 2020
- Astronomers May Have Captured the First Ever Image of Nearby Exoplanet Proxima C - Scientific American - April 24th, 2020
- Astronomy tips: How to photograph the moon, stars, and sky - Los Angeles Times - April 24th, 2020
- Astronomers Detected a Black Hole Merger With Very Different Mass Objects - Universe Today - April 24th, 2020
- Everything You Need to Know to Take up Stargazing - Thrillist - April 24th, 2020
- This Free Virtual Astronomy Livestream from the Intrepid Is Out of This World! - Time Out New York Kids - April 24th, 2020
- Beginners' astronomy: That bright light you can see in the western sky? That's Venus - Astronomy Now Online - April 24th, 2020
- Astronomers Might Have Imaged a Second Planet Around Nearby Proxima Centauri - and it Might Have a Huge Set of Rings - Universe Today - April 24th, 2020
- SpaceX to send astronauts to the International Space Station May 27 - Astronomy Magazine - April 24th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from April 10 to 17 - Astronomy Magazine - April 11th, 2020
- Earth's best telescopes have closed, but the hunt for dangerous aster - Astronomy Magazine - April 11th, 2020
- Interview: Jim Lovell relives the successful failure of Apollo 13 - Astronomy Magazine - April 11th, 2020
- astronomy | Definition & Facts | Britannica - March 31st, 2020
- Astronomy for Beginners | Night Sky Facts, FAQs ... - March 31st, 2020
- Unlike Earth, Mars may have never had a global magma ocean - Astronomy Magazine - March 31st, 2020
- Necroplanetology: The Strangest Field of Astronomy You've Never Heard Of - ScienceAlert - March 31st, 2020
- How to explore the universe while you're stuck at home - Astronomy Magazine - March 31st, 2020
- Discover the secrets of the Northern Pinwheel Galaxy - Astronomy Magazine - March 31st, 2020
- Hubble anniversary events impacted by COVID-19 pandemic - Astronomy Now Online - March 31st, 2020
- Mobile astronomy: Put the Milky Way in your pocket with 'Our Galaxy' smartphone app - Space.com - March 26th, 2020
- The true impact of SpaceXs Starlink constellation on astronomy is coming into focus - The Verge - March 26th, 2020
- The Thirty Meter Telescope: How a volcano in Hawaii became a battleground for astronomy - Space.com - March 26th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from March 20 to 27 - Astronomy Magazine - March 26th, 2020
- Slooh will livestream astronomy lesson for K-12 students during coronavirus outbreak - Space.com - March 26th, 2020
- We All Live In A Croissant-Shaped Giant Bubble, Say Astronomers - Forbes - March 26th, 2020
- How Astronomers Could Sharpen The Image Of A Black Hole - Forbes - March 26th, 2020
- Astrophysicists Perform Test of String Theory | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - March 26th, 2020
- Astronomers find an exoplanet where iron rains from the sky - Astronomy Magazine - March 11th, 2020
- The fifth force: Is there another fundamental force of nature? - Astronomy Magazine - March 11th, 2020
- The Sky This Week from March 6 to 13 - Astronomy Magazine - March 11th, 2020
- Get ready to explore the "Cosmos" with Neil deGrasse Tyson - Astronomy Magazine - March 11th, 2020
- We asked astronomers: are we alone in the Universe? The answer was surprisingly consistent - The Conversation AU - March 11th, 2020
- Dine Roundup: Wine dinners, Astronomy on Tap and more in Baton Rouge this week - 225 Baton Rouge - March 11th, 2020
- LearnSpace Foundation Holds Maiden Space Science And Astronomy Competition In Nigeria - Space in Africa - March 11th, 2020
- Now Whats Going On With Betelgeuse? The Future Supernova Just Isnt That Cool, Say Astronomers - Forbes - March 11th, 2020
- The rover formally known as Mars 2020 - Astronomy Magazine - March 11th, 2020
- How big is a neutron star? - SYFY WIRE - March 11th, 2020
- In the filaments of slime mold, astronomers see the... - ScienceBlog.com - March 11th, 2020
- Controversy over giant telescope roils astronomy conference in Hawaii - Space.com - January 16th, 2020
- Did Astronomers Just Discover Black Holes from the Big Bang? - Scientific American - January 16th, 2020
- IAU-OAD To Fund Six Grassroots Astronomy Projects In Africa - Space in Africa - January 16th, 2020
- Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Health Professions Program Joint Colloquium - My Journey in Becoming a Hand and Upper Extremity Surgeon,... - January 16th, 2020
- Vera Rubin Gets a Telescope of Her Own - The New York Times - January 16th, 2020
- Venus dazzles at dusk and closes in on Neptune - Astronomy Now Online - January 16th, 2020
- Astronomers Discover Five New Planets around Nearby Red Dwarfs | Astronomy - Sci-News.com - January 16th, 2020