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Solar probe captures turbulence phenomenon in Sun's atmosphere for the first time
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Solar probe captures turbulence phenomenon in Sun's atmosphere for the first time
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Mar 28, 2024

For the first time, the Wide-field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR), operated by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), has documented the formation of turbulence within solar transients, marking a significant breakthrough in solar physics. This discovery, detailed in the Astrophysical Journal, was made possible by the WISPR instrument aboard NASA's Parker Solar Probe (PSP), highlighting unprecedented interactions between a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) and the solar wind.

Utilizing the PSP's unique proximity to the Sun, the NRL-designed WISPR telescope, managed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL), captured these interactions in fine detail. Remarkably, the observations revealed Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities (KHI) - turbulent structures previously observed in Earth's atmosphere but never in the heliosphere with visible light. Angelos Vourlidas, Ph.D., a project scientist at JHUAPL, expressed surprise at the scale of KHI structures visible, underscoring the sensitivity and observational prowess of the WISPR detector.

The detection of these turbulent features was credited to Evangelos Paouris, Ph.D., of George Mason University, who, alongside his colleagues, conducted an in-depth analysis to confirm their presence. The identification of KHI waves opens new avenues for understanding the dynamics of CMEs as they traverse the solar wind, with implications for both civilian and defense-related space operations.

Understanding the turbulence generated by KHI is vital for predicting the movement and impact of CMEs near Earth, thereby enhancing the protection of space-based assets. The WISPR instrument's ability to directly image such transient phenomena provides invaluable insights into the behavior of CMEs and their interaction with solar wind.

WISPR, the sole imaging tool on the PSP mission, captures the solar corona and outflow in visible light, covering an angular width of over 100 degrees. This mission, pioneering in its close solar approach, is set to reach its 19th perihelion on March 30, 2024, drawing nearer to the Sun than any prior mission.

Through this achievement, the WISPR team has contributed to a greater understanding of solar wind dynamics, highlighting the importance of direct observational data in solar physics research.

Research Report:First Direct Imaging of a Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability by PSP/WISPR
Related Links
United States Naval Research Laboratory
Solar Science News at SpaceDaily

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