Eugene Parker, Visionary Astrophysicist, Dies at 94

Eugene Parker, a pioneering American astrophysicist whose mathematical prediction that charged particles streamed from stars in a photo voltaic wind was met with disbelief earlier than he was finally vindicated, has died aged 94, NASA mentioned on Wednesday. Parker was hailed as a visionary who laid the groundwork for the sector of heliophysics, the science of understanding the Solar and its interactions with Earth and the photo voltaic system, together with area climate.

In 2018, Parker grew to become the primary particular person to witness the launch of a spacecraft bearing his title, NASA’s Parker Photo voltaic Probe.

“We were saddened to learn the news that one of the great scientific minds and leaders of our time has passed,” mentioned NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson in a press release. Parker died Tuesday, based on the College of Chicago, his long-time tutorial house.

“Gene Parker was a legendary figure in our field — his vision of the Sun and the solar system was way ahead of his time,” added Angela Olinto, dean of the Bodily Sciences Division at the College of Chicago.

Born on June 10, 1927 in Michigan, Parker earned a bachelor’s diploma in physics from Michigan State College and a PhD from Caltech, then taught at the College of Utah earlier than settling at UChicago in 1955.

He started finding out the temperature of the Solar’s corona, and his calculations confirmed the circumstances ought to produce a supersonic move of particles off the floor.

The concept was initially met with scepticism — even ridicule.

‘Utter nonsense’

“The first reviewer on the paper said, ‘Well, I would suggest that Parker go to the library and read up on the subject before he tries to write a paper about it, because this is utter nonsense,'” Parker instructed UChicago Information in 2018.

His thought solely noticed publication within the Astrophysical Journal when then editor and future Nobel prize winner Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar realized he couldn’t discover a flaw in Parker’s math, and overrode the objections of each reviewers.

The speculation was proved appropriate in 1962 when NASA’s Mariner II spacecraft, which flew to Venus, encountered the stream of particles, referred to as the photo voltaic wind.

Scientists now know that photo voltaic wind blankets all of the planets, defending them from dangerous radiation, but additionally at occasions disrupting communications right here on Earth when photo voltaic flares happen.

Parker additionally proposed the concept of “nanoflares” — small photo voltaic explosions that happen all around the Solar — that are answerable for its superheated corona. The corona is hotter than the floor itself, a undeniable fact that could not be defined by recognized physics at the time.

He went on to check cosmic rays, the magnetic fields of galaxies and myriad different matters, and received quite a few accolades together with the US Nationwide Medal of Science, the Kyoto Prize, the Crafoord Prize and the American Bodily Society Medal for Distinctive Achievement in Analysis.

“Anyone who knew Dr Parker, knew that he was a visionary,” mentioned Nicola Fox, director of NASA’s heliophysics division.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, named after Parker, was launched in 2018, circling the Solar nearer than any spacecraft had beforehand ventured.

It has already despatched again troves of helpful knowledge resulting in new discoveries about area climate and the detection of a long-theorised zone the place the Solar’s radiation vaporizes all cosmic mud.

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