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September 19, 2020 • 1–2:30 p.m.

Assistant Professor David Malaspina, Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences

In August 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe spacecraft began a historic mission of discovery to the sun, our nearest star. By measuring particles, electric fields, magnetic fields and photons, the data recorded by Parker Solar Probe will help answer big questions about the sources and variability of the solar wind: the stream of particles flowing out from the sun into interplanetary space.

In this lecture, Malaspina will discuss solar wind and the big questions that motivate the Parker Solar Probe mission. He will describe the spacecraft, including its scientific instruments, challenges to its survival and its orbit. Finally, he will present the contribution to the FIELDS instrument made by the University of Colorado Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and describe some of the exciting first scientific results from the mission.

Understanding the solar wind is important in part because it carries energy and momentum from the sun to the Earth, profoundly shaping the near-Earth space environment. To carry out its mission, the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft travels very close to the sun, crossing about 95% of the distance between Earth and the solar surface by 2024. To accomplish its mission, the spacecraft must endure extreme heat, extreme cold, and unprecedented speeds, all with minimal direction from Earth.

Note: This was rescheduled from spring 2020.

Find out more about the Parker Solar Probe

About the presenter

David Malaspina portraitDavid Malaspina is an assistant professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences and a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). His research focuses on the study of fundamental plasma physics in space environments. Using data from spacecraft, he has explored the sun, the solar wind, the Earth's ionosphere and radiation belts, and the Lunar plasma environment. Knowledge of space plasma physics processes is vital for understanding and predicting how solar activity, via space weather, impacts our increasingly technology-dependent society both on Earth and in space. For more information, visit Malaspina's website.