Breakthrough by Parker Solar Probe! After 60 years, origin of solar wind found, says NASA

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission has uncovered significant new clues about the origins of the solar wind.

| Updated on: Jan 20 2023, 20:16 IST
6 STRANGEST massive black hole discoveries in 2022 that shook the world
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1/6 One of the most startling discoveries of 2022 was a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Known as Sagittarius A*, a direct image of this massive space entity was taken by the Event Horizon Telescope. With around 4 times the mass of our Sun, it is believed that the black hole plays a key role in holding our galaxy together. (Photo courtesy: Nasa)
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2/6 Even as Sagittarius A* lies within our own galaxy, it is not the closest black hole to the Earth. That title goes to the cosmic matter eating void, lying 1,566 light years away from the Earth in the Ophiuchus constellation. It was discovered in November.  (NASA)
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3/6 But if a black hole in our cosmic backyard does not scare you, maybe this will. 2022 was also the year scientists discovered a rogue black hole wandering in space. This discovery is particularly of value since it was always believed that isolated black holes exist but it was never seen due to the difficulty in spotting them. Usually all the black holes we know of are part of a binary system, along with a neutron star. (NASA)
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4/6 A rare moment occurred in December 2022 when NASA spotted a black hole eating a passing star in a rare moment known as a tidal disruption event. It was believed that the star consumed by the black hole was similar to our Sun.    (AP)
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5/6 Even after decades of research and space exploration, we have still only observed just a few black holes in the universe. However, a study published this year has made some terrifying claims. Based on the number of stars spotted which are capable of turning into a black hole, and some number crunching on the potential number of stars that can exist, it was said that the universe currently contains 40 quintillion stellar-mass black holes. (AFP)
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6/6 Finally, the brightest black hole was also discovered this year. Known as J1144, this monstrous black hole is 500 times larger than Sagittarius A* and apparently it consumes matter worth the size of the Earth every second. Because of its consumption rate, it has created a massive accretion disk which makes it so bright. In fact, it can even be seen using a regular telescope. (NASA)
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Here is what NASA's scientists have found about the origin of solar wind. (NASA)

NASA's scientists have made a breakthrough in a 60-year quest to understand the origin of the solar wind. Scientists have found that the jets or jetlets, at the base of the Sun's outer atmosphere could power the solar wind. Informing about the same NASA Sun and Space tweeted, "#ICYMI - NASA scientists have made a breakthrough in a 60-year quest to understand the origin of the solar wind. They've found that tiny jets, or "jetlets," at the base of the Sun's outer atmosphere could power the solar wind."

"Scientists with NASA's Parker Solar Probe mission have uncovered significant new clues about the origins of the solar wind – a continual stream of charged particles released from the Sun that fills the solar system," NASA said in a report. Observations from multiple space and ground-based observatories show the solar wind could be largely fueled by small-scale jets, or jetlets, at the base of the corona – the Sun's upper atmosphere. This finding is helping scientists better understand the 60-year-old mystery of what heats and accelerates the solar wind.

Notably, made of electrons, protons, and heavier ions, the solar wind courses through the solar system at roughly 1 million miles per hour. When the solar wind interacts with Earth's magnetic field, it can create stunning auroras as well as disruptions in GPS and communications systems. Over time, the solar wind, and stellar winds in other solar systems, can also affect the composition and evolution of planetary atmospheres – even influencing planets' habitability.

At Earth, the solar wind is usually a constant breeze. Scientists have therefore, been looking for a steady source on the Sun that could continually power the solar wind. However, the new findings – accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal and published on the ArXiv, an online preprint site – show the solar wind might be largely energized and fueled by individual jetlets that are intermittently erupting into the lower part of the corona. Though each jetlet is relatively small – just a few hundred miles long – their collective energy and mass could be enough to create the solar wind.


Jetlets were first observed over a decade ago and are known to be caused by a process known as magnetic reconnection, which occurs as magnetic field lines become tangled and explosively realign. Reconnection is a common process in charged gases called plasmas and is found across the universe from the Sun to near-Earth space to around black holes. In the solar corona, reconnection creates these short-lived jets of plasma that pass energy and material into the upper corona, which escape across the solar system as the solar wind.

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First Published Date: 20 Jan, 20:15 IST