Wednesday, November 21, 3:30-4:30, ASA Great Room

Marcia Neugebauer

Last August 12 NASA launched an ambitious space mission named the Parker Solar Probe (or PSP). If all goes well, it will go much closer to the Sun than any man-made object ever has. Why? What will PSP try to do?

On Wednesday afternoon, November 21, starting at 3:30 pm, Marcia Neugebauer will try to explain what it’s all about.

The Sun’s atmosphere, or corona, is visible during total solar eclipses. While the temperature of the visible surface of the Sun is about 6000°, the coronal temperature is a few million degrees. In 1958, Eugene Parker, for whom PSP is named, predicted that such a hot atmosphere could not just sit there, but had to shoot out through space in a supersonic solar wind. Despite arguments to the contrary, Parker was right, the solar wind exists. On top of that, there are occasional solar bursts which greatly affect affairs on and near Earth, such as aurorae, blackouts, radiation hazards, communication disruptions, satellite failures, etc. The goals of PSP are to find out what makes the corona so hot and, with luck, to find out what drives the occasional outbursts.

Marcia received her BA from Cornell and her MS from the University of Illinois, both in physics. She also has an Honorary Doctorate of Physics from the University of New Hampshire. She spent 45 years at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory working mainly on space missions to study the solar wind and comets. In 2002, when she moved to The Academy Village, she also became an Affiliate Research Scientist with UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

Written by Marcia Neugebauer, Academy Village Volunteer

Nov. 21: The Sun, Space, and the Parker Solar Probe