For the first time, NASA intercepted an interplanetary shock wave induced by the sun. They did so thanks to the MMS (Magnetospheric Multiscale) spacecraft, which has spent the last four years in measurements. And a few months ago, thanks to many sensitive sensors, we were able to detect a shock wave coming from the Sun – NASA,
To capture something like this, it's important to be in the right place at the right time. This was accomplished on January 8, 2018, when the MMS spacecraft intercepted such an interplanetary shock. Although the measurement took more than a year ago, the study is now published in a journal Geophysical Research Journal.
It is a type of collision in which particles transfer energy through electromagnetic waves and do not collide with each other. It is therefore a shock in which the particles do not collide but propagate further into space. This is a phenomenon that occurs in several places in the universe and occurs in the case of supernovae, black holes, or distant stars – informs Science Alert. The measured shock waves originate in the sun, which constantly releases charged particles, also called solar wind.
It can be found in two types – fast and slow. Logically the difference is only in speed. In the event that the faster wind catches the slower, a shockwave is created, which then propagates through the solar system.
As mentioned in the beginning, the shocks were captured thanks to fast and sensitive high resolution meters. A set of instruments on board can measure ions and electrons around the spacecraft up to 6 times per second. MMS consists of a total of four spacecraft that fly in close formation (approximately 19 km from each other) and can map the universe in 3D.
Ian Cohen: Individual colors represent a number of ions. The warmer the color, the greater the number. The white dot represents MMS, and the yellow bar just above the center shows reflected ions
Due to these circumstances, they were able to capture the shock of the sun. Knowledge analysis confirmed the theory of energy transfer, which was first introduced in the 1980s.
Due to the time of the devices and the location of the MMS, these shocks can be seen approximately once a week. But scientists are hoping to find the weaker ones, which are much less common and far less studied.