The Big Picture:
The Parker Solar Probe — NASA's $1.5 billion spacecraft launched in 2018 to study the outer corona of the Sun — has yielded new scientific findings! These findings are recorded in four research papers and reported on in the most recent issue of Nature.
What's the Probe's Mission?
The probe (designed and built by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University) measured the solar wind emitting from a small hole in the Sun’s corona. It's the closest look ever at one of the solar wind’s points of origin.
What Are The Findings?
Among other things, the probe revealed that solar wind rotates at faster speeds than expected and that "rogue waves" exist. As solar wind streams out into space, parts of it (rogue waves) race ahead in high-speed spikes. The probe's measurements showed that the speed of the solar wind doubled and was so strong it temporarily reversed the wind’s magnetic field.
Quote from Nature:
"Knowing that the wind is rotating at a different speed than expected could help researchers to improve predictions of when a dangerous solar outburst might reach Earth. The finding also suggests that the solar wind is transporting more energy away from the Sun than previously thought, so the star’s rotation might be slowing down more rapidly than expected. If so, astronomers might need to revise their ideas about how other stars in the Universe age."
Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben