Feb 6, 2020

Low-energy solar particles from beyond Earth found near the Sun

Posted by in categories: particle physics, space

Using data from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe (PSP), a team led by Southwest Research Institute identified low-energy particles lurking near the Sun that likely originated from solar wind interactions well beyond Earth orbit. PSP is venturing closer to the Sun than any previous probe, carrying hardware SwRI helped develop. Scientists are probing the enigmatic features of the Sun to answer many questions, including how to protect space travelers and technology from the radiation associated with solar events.

“Our main goal is to determine the acceleration mechanisms that create and transport dangerous high-energy particles from the solar atmosphere into the solar system, including the near-Earth environment,” said Dr. Mihir Desai, a mission co-investigator on the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (IS?IS) instrument suite, a multi-institutional project led by Principal Investigator Prof. Dave McComas of Princeton University… IS?IS consists of two instruments, Energetic Particle Instrument-High (EPI-Hi) and Energetic Particle Instrument-Low (EPI-Lo). “With EPI-Lo, we were able to measure extremely low-energy particles unexpectedly close to the solar environment. We considered many explanations for their presence, but ultimately determined they are the smoking gun pointing to interactions between slow- and fast-moving regions of the solar wind that accelerate high-energy particles from beyond the orbit of Earth.

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