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"Our agony is the solar storms that are dangerous for the Earth"

Interview: Christos Mazanis

"For us scientists, the Sun is a challenge. In the last years that we have been studying him, we have also found data that we cannot explain" says the Director of Physical Space Research of the Athens Observatory, Olga Malandraki, who was awarded by NASA for her contribution to research into the mysteries of the Sun, in an interview on "Jungle" TV.

During the discussion, the Greek scientist refers, among other things, to solar storms and the dangers they pose to our planet, to solar explosions and effects, to the struggle of her scientific team to predict the behavior of the Sun and space weather. "It's possible one to cause a black out in a country", he says, among other things, while standing for the State's decision to bring the National Observatory under the Ministry of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection. It also refers to the new spaceships thanks to which humanity "touches" the Sun.

Parker Solar Probe and Solar Orbiter are two new spacecraft thanks to which humanity is studying the Sun closer than ever before. The US space agency awarded the scientist with the Group Achievement Award for her work with the Parker Solar Probe team, which is tasked with analyzing data about the Sun through an advanced space probe. Landers are exploratory spacecraft headed for a celestial body. In the short time they pass by him, and before they move away, they gather as much information as they can.

This information is mainly images and measurements. For this purpose, they are equipped with cameras to capture images, with magnetometers to measure magnetic fields, with spectrographs to detect chemical elements and to measure temperatures. Their observations are then beamed back to Earth.

The Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 4, 2018 and is constantly making a loop-like orbit around the Sun. In fact, this particular boat recently broke the record for the fastest man-made object once again. On its 17th close pass by the Sun it reached 625.266 kilometers per hour, or 176 kilometers per second, a speed 500 times greater than the speed of sound at sea level.

The vessel's heat shield protects it from extreme temperatures that reach 1.400 degrees Celsius. As scientists say, it is about to break the record again , when it approaches the Sun at a distance of less than 4 million kilometers.

In addition to breaking the speed record and the record for shortest distance from the Sun, Parker Solar Probe last year became the first mission to pass through a "coronal mass ejection," or CME, a type of explosion on the Sun's surface that ejects billions of tons of protons and electrons.

« when clouds of these charged particles hit Earth, they can damage power grids, destroy satellites and endanger the lives of astronauts.", Ms. Malandraki points out.

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Solar Orbiter began its journey to the Sun on February 10, 2020 with the aim of photographing the uncharted polar regions. At the same time, it aims to study the solar atmosphere (corona), the solar disk, the solar wind, the solar magnetic fields and the Earth-Sun interaction.

It wasn't until 2022 that it took a series of close-up and stunning images of the Sun, bringing new details to light for the first time, including the so-called "solar hedgehog", a strange jet of hot and cold gas seen for the first time on the solar surface. The "hedgehog", as it has been named by scientists, has an area of ​​25.000 km, about twice the diameter of the Earth, covering nevertheless only a small part of the diameter of the Sun (1,4 million km).

"We are collaborating with these missions, which is a testament to the high level of research that is being done at the Observatory", says Olga Malandraki, among others, adding that "we collect space weather data and send it to NASA."


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