Solar Probe Touches the Sun

2/8/2021; 3 minutes

Launched in 2018, NASA's Parker Solar Probe spacecraft, with instruments developed and built by UC Berkeley, has now traveled closer to the sun than any other mission in history, actually penetrating the sun's atmosphere, to investigate highly charged magnetic field. Now, that data has allowed solar physicists to map the source of a major component of the solar wind that continually peppers Earth's atmosphere, while revealing strange magnetic field reversals that could be accelerating these particles toward our planet. These accelerated particles interact with Earth's magnetic field, generating the colorful northern and southern lights but also potentially damaging the electrical grid and telecommunications networks on the surface, threatening orbiting satellites and perhaps endangering astronauts in space. (#36760)

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