First Discoveries by Parker Solar Probe and the SWEAP Investigation

Thursday, January 30, 2020 -
4:00pm to 5:00pm
Phillips Auditorium
University of Michigan

Parker Solar Probe launched in August 2018 with the scientific objectives of understanding how the solar corona is heated to millions of degrees and how the solar wind is accelerated to speeds beyond a million km an hour. To achieve these objectives the probe repeatedly plunges through the solar corona in a highly eccentric orbit, starting with perihelia of 35 solar radii that are gradually reduced through encounters with Venus until the end of the prime mission when the spacecraft will close within 10 solar radii or seven million km from the Sun. Key to the mission is the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) Investigation, the suite of instruments led by SAO responsible for observing the thermal plasma of the solar corona and solar wind. SWEAP includes the Solar Probe Cup, a novel instrument developed at SAO that scoops up samples of the corona flowing directly from the Sun while exposed to direct sunlight. Observations from the first two encounters have been made public, and initial findings have been reported in four articles in Nature and more than fifty additional articles in press to appear in February. This talk will review some of the exciting and unexpected findings from the first encounters with the Sun, including the discovery of large amplitude velocity spikes and an unexpectedly large rotation of the solar wind around the Sun seen at closest approach. We will also discuss some of the exciting moments at SAO developing an instrument that can touch the Sun.

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