Instrument on Parker Solar Probe

Surveyor of the invisible forces, the FIELDS instrument suite on Parker Solar Prob captures the scale and shape of electric and magnetic fields in the Sun’s atmosphere. FIELDS measures waves and turbulence in the inner heliosphere with high time resolution to understand the fields associated with waves, shocks and magnetic reconnection, a process by which magnetic field lines explosively realign.

FIELDS measures the electric field around the spacecraft with five antennas, four of which stick out beyond the spacecraft’s heat shield and into the sunlight, where they experience temperatures of 2,500 F. The 2-meter-long antennas are made of a niobium alloy, which can withstand extreme temperatures. FIELDS measures electric fields across a broad frequency range both directly, or in situ, and remotely. Operating in two modes, the four sunlit antennas measure the properties of the fast and slow solar wind — the flow of solar particles constantly streaming out from the Sun. The fifth antenna, which sticks out perpendicular to the others in the shade of the heat shield, helps make a three-dimensional picture of the electric field at higher frequencies.