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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Flies Through Massive Explosion From The Sun

NASA's Parker Solar Probe, CMEs

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has become the first spacecraft to fly through a solar explosion, opening up new opportunities for scientists. Launched in August 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has provided solar physicists with a unique view of stellar events by performing in-situ observations of a coronal mass ejection (CME) for two consecutive days in September 2022.

The explosion, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), is a burst of charged particles and magnetic fields that can travel millions of miles into space.

A little about CMEs

CMEs can pose a significant hazard to spacecraft and astronauts, and they can also disrupt Earth’s magnetic field, causing power outages and other problems. By studying CMEs up close, physicists can now attempt a detailed study of solar plasma along with the early stage, structures, and evolution of these powerful explosions.

CMEs are violent eruptions of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun’s corona that can travel millions of miles into space. CMEs can disrupt Earth’s magnetic field, causing power outages and other problems. They can also damage spacecraft and astronauts. By studying CMEs up close, scientists can develop better ways to protect our planet and its inhabitants from these powerful events.

Insights into Space Dynamics

On September 5, 2022, the spacecraft identified a potent Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) just before it ventured into the scorching-hot surroundings of space. During this phase, the probe’s onboard Solar Wind Electrons, Alpha, and Protons (SWEAP) instrument observed particles rapidly accelerating, reaching speeds of up to 1,350 kilometers per second. Additionally, scientists recorded the detection of electrons moving in both directions, as well as noteworthy observations, including low proton temperatures, reduced plasma beta values, and an elevated ratio of alpha particles to protons in terms of number density.

This CME that occurred in September 2022, and was “one of the most powerful coronal mass ejections (CMEs) ever recorded,” NASA explained.

Can a similar outcome befall the Aditya-L1 mission?

ISRO’s Aditya-L1 mission is currently en route to the Lagrange 1 point, where it will establish its celestial abode for the purpose of analysing solar storms and other enigmatic solar phenomena. This spacecraft, on its trajectory to its designated observation post, is set to embark on a four-month voyage.

Aditya-L1 is poised to reach its destination just in time to witness the Sun ascending to the peak of its solar cycle, a period marked by heightened solar activity. However, concerns linger regarding the possibility of a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) affecting the spacecraft.

Despite these concerns, there are compelling reasons to believe that Aditya-L1 may fare well in the face of such cosmic turbulence. Firstly, in stark contrast to the Parker Solar Probe’s daring proximity to the Sun, Aditya-L1 maintains a considerable distance, positioned at a mere 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. Secondly, the spacecraft’s structural integrity has been fortified with specialized alloys and materials, making it resilient against a range of spaceborne hazards, including intense radiation and CME clouds.

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