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Current Affairs

Solar orbiter to map Sun’s poles

Date: 10 February 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are gearing up to send a new probe toward the Sun to take a unique look at its blazing poles.

 

Background

The Solar Orbiter is due launch to space atop an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, deploying an array of solar panels and antennas before setting off on its 10-year voyage to the Sun.

 

Details

  • It will use the gravitational influence from Earth and Venus to whip itself as close as 26 million miles from the Sun or 95% of the distance between the star and Earth the probe will map the star's poles, which could allow scientists for the first time to observe the concentrated source of solar wind that permeates our solar system.

  • Solar wind is soup of charged particles that are highly concentrated at the poles and beam through our solar system, affecting satellites and electronic devices on Earth.

  • Solar Orbiter carries ten instruments packed behind a massive 324-pound (147 kg) heat shield, three of which will peer through tiny windows and face the Sun to survey how its surface changes over time.

Layers of Sun

  • Photosphere: This is the Sun’s deepest layer, and the layer visible to human eyes directly from the Earth. It is also called the solar surface. Much of this layer is covered by granulation caused by the bubbling gas within the convection layer and sunspots caused by strong magnetic fields.

  • Chromosphere: This layer of the Sun is located between 250 miles and 1300 miles above the photosphere. The chromosphere has temperatures around 4000 degrees Kelvin at the base, and 8000 degrees Kelvin at the top.

  • Corona: This layer is the Sun’s outermost layer. It starts at roughly 1300 miles over the photosphere and it has no upper limit. Its temperature is between 500,000 degrees Kelvin to 1 million degrees Kelvin. The corona cannot be seen with bare eyes.

  • Core: The core is the Sun’s middle region where energy is generated through thermonuclear reactions which creates extreme temperatures of about 15 million degrees Celsius. These nuclear reactions use hydrogen to produce helium.

  • Radiative Zone: This zone is amidst the core and the convective zones, and it is roughly 70 percent of the Sun’s radius. Energy produced through nuclear fusion in the core moves steadily outwards as electromagnetic radiation, taking over 170,000 years to radiate through the radiative zone.

  • Convection Zone: This layer of the sun is above the radiative zone and it is the outer most layer of the Sun’s interior. It stretches from depths of roughly 200,000 kilometers right up to the visible surface.