A well-fortified NASA spacecraft flew through and survived a massive blast from the sun.
Scientists recently released rare footage of this solar event, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, an eruption of a mass of super-hot gas (plasma). “It’s like picking up a piece of the sun and throwing it out into space,” Mark Misch, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, told Mashable earlier this year.
This coronal mass ejection occurred in September 2022, and was “one of the most powerful coronal mass ejections (CMEs) ever recorded.” NASA explained. Fortunately, the space agency’s Parker Solar Probe is equipped with a powerful probe Heat shieldIt was designed to withstand such intense radiation bursts. The pioneering probe is closely investigating the behavior of the Sun.
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Here’s what you see in the footage posted by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, a scientific collaborator on the solar probe:
The actual sun is not visible in the shot, but the position of our star is shown to the left of the screen.
After 14 seconds, the coronal ejection becomes visible, shooting from left to right. then, Bam.
The probe then passes through the eruption and emerges at the end of the video.
This was not an easy matter. “In all, Parker spent nearly two days observing the coronal ejection, becoming the first spacecraft ever to fly through a powerful solar flare near the Sun,” the Johns Hopkins laboratory explained.
Scientists use observations from the Parker Solar Probe along with other spacecraft and telescopes to understand the behavior of potentially destructive CMEs and other types of space weather, such as solar flares (bursts of energy from the Sun’s surface). A CME, for example, “can endanger satellites, disrupt communications and navigation technologies, and even destroy power grids on Earth,” NASA explains. Famously, a powerful CME in 1989 knocked out power to millions in Quebec, Canada. The CME hit the Earth’s magnetic field on March 12 of that year, and subsequently, wrote NASA astronomer Sten Odenwald“After 2:44 a.m. on March 13, weak currents were found in Quebec’s electrical power grid. In less than two minutes, the entire Quebec power grid lost power. During the ensuing 12-hour blackout, millions were without power and found People suddenly find themselves in dark office buildings, underground pedestrian tunnels and in stalled elevators.
The CME was ejected from the surface of the Sun on February 27, 2000.
Credit: SOHO ESA/NASA
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In the coming years, observations by the Parker Solar Probe may help researchers better predict where a powerful emission from the Sun might hit Earth, allowing any country or region to better prepare (for example, by temporarily shutting down the electrical grid). .
For now, the mission continues: in 2024, the shielded spacecraft will collide with Earth A whopping 430,000 miles per hour Because it comes within 3.9 million miles of the sun.
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