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Radio Remote Sensing of the Sun’s Corona to Support Parker Solar Probe

Presentation #523.06 in the session “Education and Public Outreach I: Citizen Science, Visualizations, and Public Engagement”.

Published onJan 11, 2021
Radio Remote Sensing of the Sun’s Corona to Support Parker Solar Probe

Parker Solar Probe (PSP) is revolutionizing our understanding of the solar corona and solar wind. Since its launch, PSP has reached perihelion six times and will continue to probe closer to the Sun with each of its over 20 orbits, eventually reaching heliocentric distances within 10 solar radii. In situ measurements at these heliocentric distances are critical because it is within 20 solar radii that the fast solar wind is accelerated, the solar wind becomes super Alfvenic, and the corona is heated to millions of degrees. In order to enhance the scientific results from PSP, it is crucial to supplement these in situ measurements with ground-based radio remote-sensing observations. One of the key plasma characteristics PSP will explore is the coronal magnetic field. Prior to PSP, the only means to measure magnetic fields within this region of the corona were remote-sensing methods such as Faraday rotation (FR). FR is the rotation of the plane of polarization when linearly polarized radiation propagates through a magnetized plasma. FR is proportional to the path integral of the electron number density and the component of the magnetic field along the line-of-sight (LOS) to the observer. To support the PSP mission, we are making 1-2 GHz observations using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) on fixed dates corresponding to PSP perihelion events 5, 6, and 7 (June 2020, September 2020, and January 2021, respectively). We are observing FR through coronal plasma structures at heliocentric distances within 20 solar radii, coinciding with PSP’s trajectory during these perihelion events. For each perihelion event, we observe for a total of 32 hours over four sessions: one session each on the day before, during, and after perihelion and one reference session when sources are far from the Sun. We discuss our preliminary results and how these observations will supplement PSP’s ability to determine the structure of the coronal plasma and magnetic field and provide hands-on experience in radio astronomical research to students.

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