SOLAR WIND

The continuous flow of charged particles from the sun that permeates the solar system.

Dr. Robert Hurt explains what a solar wind is, and how it affects us here on Earth.

CREDIT: NASA Spitzer

Eugene Parker, the S. Chandrasekhar Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Physics at the University of Chicago, discusses his scientific research on the sun, including his landmark discovery of the solar wind. Nearly 60 years ago, Parker first coined the term solar wind to describe the stream of electrically charged particles emitted by the sun. On May 31, 2017, NASA honored Parker by naming its first mission to the sun—the Parker Solar Probe—in his honor. (Video by UChicago Creative)

NASA named their next solar mission in honor of Eugene Parker, a solar astrophysicist who revolutionized our understanding of how the sun’s emissions affect our solar system.

Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will fly through the corona, closer to the sun’s surface than any other spacecraft to date. Scientists hope this data will help them understand how heat and energy move through the corona and drive the solar wind, which can cause space weather here on Earth. Parker Solar Probe will make two dozen close approaches to the sun over its seven-year mission.

The solar wind blows past Earth in this illustration. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio/Greg Shirah
The solar wind blows past Earth in this illustration. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio/Greg Shirah

For the first time, using NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, scientists have imaged the edge of the sun and described that transition – from which the solar wind blows.

Defining the details of this boundary helps us learn more about our solar neighborhood, which is bathed throughout by solar material – a space environment that we must understand to safely explore beyond our planet. A paper on the findings was published in The Astrophysical Journal on Sept. 1, 2016.

GIF of animated sun with corona and solar wind labels. CREDIT: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
GIF of animated sun with corona and solar wind labels. CREDIT: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
GIF showing the before (left) and after (right) video of the solar wind, as seen by NASA's STEREO spacecraft. Scientists used an algorithm to dim the appearance of bright stars and dust in images of the faint solar wind. This innovation enabled them to see the transition from the corona to the solar wind. It also gives us the first video of the solar wind itself in a previously unmapped region. CREDIT: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
GIF showing the before (left) and after (right) video of the solar wind, as seen by NASA's STEREO spacecraft. Scientists used an algorithm to dim the appearance of bright stars and dust in images of the faint solar wind. This innovation enabled them to see the transition from the corona to the solar wind. It also gives us the first video of the solar wind itself in a previously unmapped region. CREDIT: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
GIF excerpt from processed STEREO data of the solar wind. CREDIT: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Data credit: Craig DeForest, SwRI
GIF excerpt from processed STEREO data of the solar wind. CREDIT: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Data credit: Craig DeForest, SwRI

The Solar Wind’s Impact on Mars

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