In news: The Parker solar probe has detected a natural radio signal from Venus.
- The signal revealed that the probe passed through the upper atmosphere of Venus, collecting the first direct measurement of it in almost 30 years.
- The spacecraft uses the gravity of Venus as it swings around the planet, called a gravity assist, to help bend the probe’s orbit and bring it closer and closer to the sun.
- In July 2020, Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument detected a bright rim around the edge of the planet that may be nightglow.
- The information gathered by Parker so far about Venus is helping scientists to understand why it’s so different from Earth, even though the planets are often referred to as twins.
- Unlike Earth, Venus doesn’t have a magnetic field and its inhospitable surface has blazing temperatures that can melt lead.
- The probe collected evidence that Venus’ upper atmosphere goes through some unusual changes that are influenced by the solar cycle.
- Earth and Venus both have an ionosphere and the plasma emits natural radio waves that can be picked up by instruments like Parker’s FIELDS.
- During the July 2020 flyby, the radio signal picked up by the FIELDS instrument helped the researchers to determine that the Venusian ionosphere is much thinner during solar minimum than it is during solar maximum.
Previous missions to explore Venus include NASA’s Pioneer Venus Orbiter from 1978 to 1992 and the European Space Agency’s Venus Express from 2005 to 2014, both of which orbited the planet.
Parker Solar Probe-
- It is the first-ever mission to “touch” the Sun.
- The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, travels directly through the Sun’s atmosphere.
- It was launched aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, on Aug. 12, 2018.
- In order to unlock the mysteries of the Sun’s atmosphere, the Probe uses Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun.
- It is part of NASA’s Living With a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society.
- The spacecraft and instruments are protected from the Sun’s heat by a 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield, which needs to withstand temperatures outside the spacecraft that reach nearly 2,500 F.
- The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.
It carries four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and image the solar wind.