Visiting Our Sun: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Solar Atmosphere using Parker Solar Probe
Since the start of the space age we have been able to measure the solar wind, a hot and tenuous plasma emanating from the Sun's surface that fills the solar system. We have not been able to determine what mechanisms are responsible for accelerating this wind, nor why the Sun's atmosphere is hotter than its surface, an issue known as the coronal heating problem. One of the main limitations on our ability to answer these questions is that we have yet to directly measure the solar wind near the Sun. In August of 2018, NASA launched Parker Solar Probe (PSP), a mission that will provide for the first time direct observations of the corona. Over its seven year mission, PSP will orbit the Sun at increasingly close distances, down to less than four million miles from the Sun's surface, seven times closer than any previous mission. We will discuss how these measurements are being made, what theories are being tested, and what benefits better understanding the Sun's behavior will bring to society.