Space leaves less and less to the imagination. You no longer need to fantasize about what gusts of wind that hit the surface of Mars sound like, for example. We can hear them by the grace of InSight. Nor do we need creativity to get an idea of the appearance and sound of Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s satellites, or the roar of a solar storm against the Earth’s magnetic field. They are all stamps or audios that we have thanks to missions such as NASA or ESA. Now that wide repertoire adds new material, and one of the good ones: a video that shows us the images captured by Parker, the probe that “touched” the Sun.
The recording, posted on the YouTube channel of the Johns Hopskins University (JHU) Applied Physics Laboratory, was made with images collected by the spacecraft while passing through the Sun’s corona. Material was collected by the Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) of the probe itself, an instrument that now allows us to enjoy fascinating 13-second footage.
Leaning out of the crown of the Sun
What do we see in it? As detailed by the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, during its mission the ship passed through structures called coronal serpentines, gas and plasma loops and that can now be perfectly appreciated in the piece made by the experts. “These structures can be seen as bright features moving up and down in the video compiled from the WISPR instrument,” the JHU details on its YouTube channel: “Such a view is only possible because the spacecraft flew overhead and below the streamers inside the crown ”.
In addition to being fascinating, the material is quite a scientific achievement. Until now, researchers had only managed to appreciate coronal streamers –visible from Earth during total solar eclipses– at far distances. In 2018, in fact, Parker captured images when it was approximately 27.1 million kilometers from the surface of the Sun. On this occasion, as NASA itself reported days ago in an official statement, the probe managed to “touch” the star at fly through the corona, the upper atmosphere of the star.
In the video, not only the coronal streamers are appreciated. Science Alert, which details that the footage was made with individual images captured throughout the first half of August, during the probe’s ninth perihelion, explains that the video could also show several planets in the distance. The finding corresponds to the astrophysicist Grant Tremblay, from the Harvard & Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who identifies Mars, Mercury, Venus, the Milky Way, Saturn, Jupiter and Earth in the video. Their conclusions have not yet been confirmed by NASA.
I cannot stop thinking about this incredible footage, mainly:
(1) The milky way. Imaged from within a solar streamer. FFFF.
(2) Those two planets at the end? I’m almost positive it’s Venus and Mercury, but need to confirm w / jpl horizons (or, more easily, a Parker person) https://t.co/lMu449MlBl pic.twitter.com/o7Gbiju1xX
– Grant Tremblay (@astrogrant) December 15, 2021
Beyond the mind-boggling images he’s gifting us, Parker’s feat is allowing scientists get to know our star much better. In 2019, for example, he discovered that zigzag magnetic structures in the solar wind, the so-called curves, abound near the star. “I’m excited about what Parker might encounter as he repeatedly passes through the crown over the next several years,” explains Nicola Fox of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters: “The opportunity for new discoveries is limitless.”