Science

NASA scientists are tracking solar energy particles to their source

Humans who work and live in space face potential dangers and challenges unheard of here on Earth. One of the challenges the sun poses to astronauts working in space are particles known as solar energy particles, or SEPs. These tiny particles are moving at nearly the speed of light and have the ability to reach Earth from the sun in less than an hour. Particles also have the ability to destroy electronics in spacecraft and pose a health risk to astronauts.

It is extremely difficult to predict the onset of SEPs, in part because scientists do not know exactly where they originated in the sun. However, prof New study He was able to track SEP’s eruptions into the sun and shed light on the answer to this question for the first time. Scientist Stephanie Yardley says researchers have been able for the first time to identify the specific sources of these energetic particles.

Yardley believes that understanding the source regions and the physical processes that produce SEPs can improve predicting events. Researchers know that SEPs can emanate from the sun in any direction, and just observing one in space is difficult. Observing these particles in space is one of the main functions of NASA’s Solar Physics System Observatory.

Scientists divide SEP events into two broad categories: impulsive and progressive. Impulsive events occur after solar flares, which are bright flashes on the Sun caused by sudden magnetic explosions. Progressive SEPs last longer and sometimes last for several days. They are usually generated in large swarms, which makes them more dangerous for astronauts or satellites.

Progressive SEPs are propelled from behind by coronal mass ejection, and large columns of solar material flow through space like a tidal wave. Researchers traced the incremental SEP events from January 2014 to their origins on the Sun. They were able to show that events have a specific imprint, which means a different mixture of particles not normally found in the solar wind. The team says the SEPs have somehow freed from the strong magnetic rings connected to the Sun at both ends. The discovery raised new questions for future work, but identifying its source is a critical first step.

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