Two spacecraft made historic flybys of Venus last week, and both sent back sci-fi-type views of the mysterious, cloud-shrouded planet.
The Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo spacecraft both used Venus for gravity assists within 33 hours of each other, capturing unique imagery and data during their encounters.
Continue reading “The First Images and Videos from the Double Venus Flyby”
Our Sun is about 4.6 billion years old. We know that from models of Sun-like stars, as well as through our observations of other stars of similar mass. We know that the Sun has grown hotter over time, and we know that in about 5 billion years it will become a red giant star before ending its life as a white dwarf. But there are many things about the Sun’s history that we don’t understand. How active was it in its youth? What properties of the young Sun allowed life to form on Earth billions of years ago?
Continue reading “Astronomers Find a Nearby Star That a Spitting Image of a Young Sun”
The Earth’s magnetic field is an underappreciated wonder of the natural world. It protects our atmosphere, provides some of the most breathtaking scenery when it creates auroras, and allows people to navigate from one side of the world to the other. Unfortunately, it won’t be able to save us from the death of the Sun though. At least that’s the finding of some new research by Dr. Dimitri Veras of the University of Warwick and Dr. Aline Vidotto of Trinity College Dublin.
Continue reading “When the Sun Dies, Earth’s Magnetosphere won’t Provide Protection any More”
Scientists have found the unmistakable presence of certain isotopes in an iron meteorite. Since these meteorites are thought to leftover bits of planetary cores, similar isotopes must be in the Earth’s own core. And the only place to get those isotopes is from the solar wind.
Continue reading “There are Particles of 4.5 Billion-Year-old Solar Wind Trapped Inside the Earth”
For the first time astronomers have observed waves of magnetic energy, known as Alfvén waves, in the photosphere of the sun. This discovery may help explain why the solar corona is so much hotter than the surface.
Continue reading “Astronomers Confirm the Existence of Magnetic Waves in the Sun’s Photosphere”
Sometimes the sun spits out high-energy particles which slam into the Earth, potentially disrupting our sensitive electronics. New research has found that these particles originate in the plasma of the sun itself, and are trapped there by strong magnetic fields. When those fields weaken, the particles blast out.
Continue reading “Researchers Discover the Source of the Sun’s Most Dangerous High-Energy Particles”
Solar physicists have been having a field day of late. A variety of missions have been staring at the sun more intently ever before (please don’t try it at home). From the Parker Solar Probe to the Solar Orbiter, we are constantly collecting more and more data about our stellar neighbor. But it’s not just the big name missions that can collect useful data – sometimes information from missions as simple as a sounding rocket make all the difference.
That was the case for a group of scientists focused on the Sun’s chromosphere, the part of the suns’ atmosphere between the photosphere and the corona that is one of the least understood parts of the star. Now, with data collected from three different missions simultaneously, humanity has its first layered view of how the sun’s magnetic field works in this underexplored zone.
Continue reading “Space Missions are Building Up a Detailed Map of the Sun’s Magnetic Field”
Last summer, the Parker Solar Probe flew past Venus on its way to fly closer to the Sun. In a bit of a surprise, one of the spacecraft’s cameras, the Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe, or WISPR, captured a striking image of the planet’s nightside from 7,693 miles (12380 km) away.
The surprise of the image was that WISPR – a visible light camera – seemingly captured the Venus’ surface in infrared light.
Continue reading “Parker Solar Probe Captured Images of Venus on its way to the Sun”
The Sun has a lot of rhythm and goes through different cycles of activity. The most well-known cycle might be the Schwabe cycle, which has an 11-year cadence. But what about cycles with much longer time scales? How can scientists understand them?
As it turns out, the Sun has left some hidden clues in tree rings.
Continue reading “Tree Rings Reveal 1,000 Years of Solar Activity”
As Einstein originally predicted with his General Theory of Relativity, gravity alters the curvature of spacetime. As a consequence, the passage of light changes as it encounters a gravitational field, which is how General Relativity was confirmed! For decades, astronomers have taken advantage of this to conduct Gravitational Lensing (GL) – where a distant source is focused and amplified by a massive object in the foreground.
In a recent study, two theoretical physicists argue that the Sun could be used in the same way to create a Solar Gravitational Lens (SGL). This powerful telescope, they argue, would provide enough light amplification to allow for Direct Imaging studies of nearby exoplanets. This could allow astronomers to determine if planets like Proxima b are potentially-habitable long before we send missions to study them.
Continue reading “If We Used the Sun as a Gravitational Lens Telescope, This is What a Planet at Proxima Centauri Would Look Like”