Researchers Discover the Source of the Sun’s Most Dangerous High-Energy Particles

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”

Space Missions are Building Up a Detailed Map of the Sun’s Magnetic Field

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”

Parker Solar Probe Captured Images of Venus on its way to the Sun

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”

If We Used the Sun as a Gravitational Lens Telescope, This is What a Planet at Proxima Centauri Would Look Like

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”

Neutrinos prove the Sun is doing a second kind of fusion in its core

Like all stars, our Sun is powered by the fusion of hydrogen into heavier elements. Nuclear fusion is not only what makes stars shine, it is also a primary source of the chemical elements that make the world around us. Much of our understanding of stellar fusion comes from theoretical models of atomic nuclei, but for our closest star, we also have another source: neutrinos created in the Sun’s core.

Continue reading “Neutrinos prove the Sun is doing a second kind of fusion in its core”

Do Ripples on the Surface of the Sun tell us that a Flare is Coming?

Flares from the sun are some of the nastiest things in the solar system. When the sun flares, it belches out intense X-ray radiation (and sometimes even worse). Predicting solar flares is a tricky job, and a new research paper sheds light on a possible new technique: looking for telltale ripples in the surface of the sun minutes before the blast comes.

Continue reading “Do Ripples on the Surface of the Sun tell us that a Flare is Coming?”