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Expert Reaction: Parker Solar Probe orbit of the sun

Posted on 5 April 2019

An expert in astrophysics at the University of York comments on the NASA mission to study the Sun using the Parker Solar Probe. The mission aims to make a close flyby of the Sun, attempting to go faster and closer than before.

Analysing the Sun's solar winds will help understand its environment

Dr Emily Brunsden, Director of the University of York's Astrocampus at the Department of Physics, said: "The probe is designed to cope with intense temperatures and radiation, and although 24 million kilometers sounds like a long way from the Sun, it is only just over 17 sun-widths away.

"We owe life on Earth to our closest star, the Sun, and it is easy to forget what an awesome and dynamic object it is. There are solar storms, enormous energy outbursts and twists and changes in the magnetic fields.

Solar wind

"We see the effects of energetic phenomena directly on Earth as charged particles, which interact with our atmosphere to create aurorae. We can therefore consider ourselves to live inside the atmosphere of the Sun - known as the solar wind.

"Understanding the structure and dynamics of the magnetic fields, the energy flows and particles being accelerated at the sources of the solar wind help us to understand our local environment in space.

"This is what the Parker Solar probe will give us valuable data on."