New data on the origin of the solar wind

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists on NASA‘s Parker Solar Probe mission have collected important new data on the origin of the solar wind, a continuous stream of charged particles emitted by the Sun.

Observations show that the solar wind largely induces many small jets in the Sun’s upper atmosphere.

This discovery helped scientists get closer to solving a 60-year-old mystery: what heats and accelerates the solar wind.

Scientists from the NASA Parker Solar Probe mission and other space and ground-based observatories have shown that the solar wind largely creates small “jets” at the base of the solar corona – the upper layers of the Sun’s atmosphere.

The discovery helps scientists better understand the 60-year-old mystery of what heats and accelerates the solar wind.

Noor Rawafi, research leader and scientist at the Parker Solar Probe, says: “We have seen the solar wind flow emerge from millions of degree plasma jets across the base of the corona.”

Commentary on the NASA video. In the center we see the Sun and swirls on its surface. Streams of golden solar particles escape from the star into space.

Consisting of electrons, protons and heavier ions, the solar wind travels through the solar system at about 1 million kilometers per hour.

When the solar wind interacts with the Earth‘s magnetic field, it creates beautiful auroras and disrupts GPS and communications systems.

The solar wind and stellar winds in other planetary systems can also influence the composition and evolution of planetary atmospheres and even the habitability of planets.

One clap and prolonged applause

NASA scientists explain how the solar wind occurs 2
The Parker Solar Probe image shows small jets at the base of the solar corona. The observations were made for approximately 10 hours on April 28, 2021

On Earth, the solar wind is usually a constant breeze. Therefore, scientists were looking for a stable source on the Sun that could constantly generate the solar wind.

However, new results show that the solar wind can be largely generated by individual jets that periodically erupt into the lower part of the corona.

While each jet is relatively small only a few hundred kilometers long their combined energy and mass could be enough to create the solar wind.

“This result means that virtually all of the solar wind is released in discrete, small bursts, becoming a steady stream, in much the same way that individual sounds of applause in the audience turn into a continuous ovation,” said co-author Craig DeForest.

The jets are present in the lower layers of the solar atmosphere over the entire surface of the star.

This makes them a reliable source of constant solar wind, unlike other phenomena that wax and wane with the 11-year cycle of solar activity, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

Confirmation of Eugene Parker’s theory

The solar wind was theoretically described in the late 1950s by the eminent solar explorer astronomer Eugene Parker, after whom the Parker probe is named.

In 1988, Parker suggested that the corona could be heated by “nanoflashes,” small explosions in the solar atmosphere.

“The jets that we observed are, in a sense, what Eugene Parker “calculated” more than three decades ago,” Rawafi said.

“I am convinced that we are on the right path to understanding the solar wind and coronal heating.”


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