Thousands of kilometers away, right now, a man-made spacecraft is orbiting the Sun at a speed of 600.000 kilometers per hour, while thanks to an engineered heat shield that can withstand a temperature of one million degrees Celsius, scientists εκτελούν πειράματα σε… θερμοκρασία δωματίου. Μια συναρπαστική περίοδος εξερεύνησης του αστεριού του ηλιακού συστήματος έχει ξεκινήσει τα τελευταία χρόνια, προσπάθεια με ελληνική συμμετοχή που τις τελευταίες ημέρες βραβεύτηκε από την αμερικανική NASA.
«This is incredible technology. The Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter are two new spacecraft thanks to which humanity is "touching" the sun closer than ever. NASA's Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 4, 2018, and is constantly making a loop-like orbit around the sun. Each time it makes another such loop, the loop goes closer, so Parker without crashing into the Sun will reach a distance equal to 9 radii of our star, its closest perihelion. These are frighteningly close distances and we can say that humanity is "touching" the Sun", Dr. Olga Malandraki, Greek Space Physics researcher, expert in space weather, head of the Space Weather Operational Unit of the National Observatory of Athens (EAA) which provides unique on an international level Space Weather forecasts.
«The other spacecraft, the Solar Orbiter, of the European ESA whose launch took place on February 10, 2020 is the second also important new effort. We are collaborating with these missions, which is a testament to the high level of research being done at the Observatory", noted the Greek researcher who last week returned to Greece with an important distinction.
The mysterious heliosphere and the Greek distinction
The Greek head of the ESA's Space Weather Operations Unit returned with an important NASA prize, the Group Achievement Award, for her work with the Parker Solar Probe Team that has been tasked with analyzing data from this sophisticated space probe. "The Team Achievement Award was given to the scientists of the Parker Solar Probe mission in recognition of the team's efforts to create and operate Humanity's first "touch the Sun" mission. We are excited to be involved", emphasized Ms. Malandrakis who also described the goals set by the Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter missions.
«Η ανθρωπότητα γνωρίζει, με βάση τις αποστολές που έχουμε πετάξει, δεδομένα για τον ήλιο μέχρι στο λεγόμενο σημείο L1. Το L1 είναι ακριβώς μπροστά από την Γη, ένα σημείο που ισορροπείται η βαρυτική δύναμη του Ήλιου με αυτή της Γης. Είναι ακριβώς μπροστά από την μύτη της μαγνητόσφαιρας, έξω λοιπόν από το μαγνητικό πεδίο της Γης, και εκεί πέρα βρίσκονται τα διαστημόπλοια. Και τη δεκαετία του 1980 είχαν φύγει για εκεί τα διαστημόπλοια HELIOS – μια cooperation of Germany with NASA – which went a third of the distance, but did not have the technology experiments we have today. Therefore, the part of space between the Sun and the Earth, the inner heliosphere as it is called, was a mystery...", explained the Greek Space Physics researcher.
Two spaceships, one mission around the Sun
Ms. Malandrakis participates in the IS⊙IS experiment with Professor McComas from Princeton University as Principal Investigator, in the Energetic Particle Detector with Professors Javier Rodriguez-Pacheco and Bob Wimmer-Schweingrueber Spain and Germany respectively as Co-Investigator in the Solar Orbiter and as reported have already been observed "...some strange effects near the Sun». She points out the paradox in space physics, that the temperature does not decrease as one moves away from the sun. "The Solar Orbiter found with amazing clarity images in active centers in the sun on its surface that there are some small, small, small explosions which they call "campfire events", small fires that heat the corona of the Sun and are likely responsible on a large scale for this paradox", revealed the Greek Space Physics researcher. At the same time he noted:phenomena have been found that we do not see at all from the Earth's orbit. They occur close to the sun, are small phenomena and have the effect of filling the area around the sun like a reservoir of particles. These cannot be detected on Earth because they are of lower intensity and coincide with periods when the Sun is in a fairly low period of activity. This is very important because it means that there are already particles around the Sun where larger explosions start at a high energy level and accelerate them further. This is how we understand why some particles finally reach the Earth's orbit at these high intensities».
As the Greek researcher mentioned, finally, the scientific field has received significant promotion in recent years. "It's a good time, because we have NASA, ESA, the Japanese launching, we have a fleet of spacecraft that give that kind of data. Greece has developed a lot since becoming a member of the European Space Agency. In the field of Space it is important to be present as Greek researchers, to have funding to advance programs so that we can give jobs hereHe added.