Sun  ID: 14055

Parker Solar Probe's WISPR Images Inside The Sun's Atmosphere

For the first time in history, a spacecraft has touched the Sun. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has now flown through the Sun’s upper atmosphere – the corona – and sampled particles and magnetic fields there. As Parker Solar Probe flew through the corona, its WISPR instrument captured images.

The Wide-Field Imager for Parker Solar Probe (WISPR) is the only imaging instrument aboard the spacecraft. WISPR looks at the large-scale structure of the corona and solar wind before the spacecraft flies through it. About the size of a shoebox, WISPR takes images from afar of structures like coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, jets and other ejecta from the Sun. These structures travel out from the Sun and eventually overtake the spacecraft, where the spacecraft’s other instruments take in-situ measurements. WISPR helps link what’s happening in the large-scale coronal structure to the detailed physical measurements being captured directly in the near-Sun environment.

To image the solar atmosphere, WISPR uses the heat shield to block most of the Sun’s light, which would otherwise obscure the much fainter corona. Specially designed baffles and occulters reflect and absorb the residual stray light that has been reflected or diffracted off the edge of the heat shield or other parts of the spacecraft.

WISPR uses two cameras with radiation-hardened Active Pixel Sensor CMOS detectors. These detectors are used in place of traditional CCDs because they are lighter and use less power. They are also less susceptible to effects of radiation damage from cosmic rays and other high-energy particles, which are a big concern close to the Sun. The camera’s lenses are made of a radiation hard BK7, a common type of glass used for space telescopes, which is also sufficiently hardened against the impacts of dust.

WISPR was designed and developed by the Solar and Heliophysics Physics Branch at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. (principal investigator Russell Howard), which will also develop the observing program.

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Parker Solar Probe

SVS >> Corona
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