5 secrets of the Sun revealed by NASA's Parker Solar Probe

This NASA probe has returned critically important data about what is happening on the Sun. And yes, there were some astounding new discoveries, NASA Goddard reports. (NASA)

Parker is the closest spacecraft to the Sun meaning we now have never-before-seen details about the solar wind and solar energetic particles. Here are 5 discoveries by Parker Solar probe:  (NASA)

Dust-free zone: We have long known that space is full of cosmic dust. We can even see the dust from Earth because it reflects sunlight. Parker saw evidence that the dust stops at an estimated 3.5 million miles from the Sun. As the dust gets closer, the Sun vaporizes it, creating a dust-free zone.  (NASA)

Switchbacks: At Earth, it appears that the magnetic field lines flow evenly out from the Sun, but Parker saw them behave surprisingly. The magnetic field lines flip in a whip-like motion turning 180 degrees around in a matter of seconds. These switchbacks came in clusters and were timed with fast-moving clumps of plasma in the solar wind. (NASA)

Turbulence: Scientists have long wondered if the solar wind is generated as a continuous flow or in spurts. We now see evidence that the solar wind has a rough, irregular texture. (NASA)

The plasma within it also seems to lack an orderly sense of direction. Some clumps of solar system material fire out into space while others fall back toward the Sun. These clips may be distorting the magnetic field, causing the switchbacks. They may also be an indicator of what the solar wind looks like in its early stages after the birth of the Sun. (NASA)

The Breaking Point: Parker found a transition point in the Solar wind. The corona is the Sun's faint, outermost layer that transitions to the solar wind. (NASA)

Before Parker, scientists knew that the corona rotates with the visible surface below it. But they did not know how or where the solar wind switches to flow straight by the time it reaches Earth. Parker has finally spotted signs of this transition and the changeover happens significantly further out than expected. (NASA)

Small Particle Events: Although the Sun has been very quiet over the first two orbits, Parker observed several tiny bursts of solar energetic particles. While these events have been seen before, never ones this small. (NASA)

The fast-moving particles from these modest bursts spread out as they move from the Sun, making them undetectable from Earth. NASA says, "Without Parker's front row seats, we would never know that the Sun is regularly producing these small-scale events. Fast-moving particles are a source of dangerous radiation."  (NASA)

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