SEP 15, 2016 12:21 PM PDT

New Study Illustrates How Solar Wind Works Beyond the Sun's Magnetic Reach

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Astronomers have been observing the Sun with various kinds of equipment for ages to get a better understanding of how its magnetic fields affect the solar wind, and they’ve recently made strides in this research.
 
What they’ve found has been published in The Astrophysical Journal.
 
Using NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO), experts have managed to map out previously un-mapped regions of the Sun’s solar wind, a force that reaches many of the Solar System’s planets. It turns out there is a boundary between where the Sun's solar wind can be controlled by its magnetic fields, and where it can't be.
 

In this image, the solar wind is seen in a region we've never been able to see in this detail before.

 Image Credit: data from Craig DeForest, SwRI

Computer algorithms have allowed these researchers to dim the competing brightness from stars and dust in the background of the footage, giving us what appears to be the first ever pure recording of solar wind in a region we’ve never mapped out before.
 
The footage gives us a front row seat at how solar wind structure changes as it gets further and further away from the Sun, beyond the corona.
 
After a certain distance, around 20 million miles away from the Sun’s surface, solar wind is no longer as organized and it begins on a much less-controlled course because the magnetic field can’t control it anymore. The consistency of that solar material can be observed, and that’s just what these researchers have managed to do.
 
“As you go farther from the sun, the magnetic field strength drops faster than the pressure of the material does,” said Craig DeForest, lead author of the paper and a solar physicist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Eventually, the material starts to act more like a gas, and less like a magnetically structured plasma.”
 
The reason this study is so important is because processing this kind of footage without destroying the parts we need to see requires careful attention. The particles seen in the solar wind aren’t that bright, and are easily out-shined by other objects in surrounding space, which has made it difficult to observe this region of the solar wind in the past.
 
Now having seen how solar wind behaves when it leaves the Sun’s ‘atmosphere,’ scientists can have a better idea of how solar wind impacts the planets in our Solar System. Such can help us better understand phenomena like auroras and prepare for possible hazards.
 


Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
How Do Astronauts Have Fun in Space?
JUL 20, 2020
How Do Astronauts Have Fun in Space?
Scientists who inhabit the International Space Station (ISS) typically have 12-hour shifts. These include two and a half ...
AUG 02, 2020
Space & Astronomy
In a Rare Event, Massive Star Disappears Without a Supernova
AUG 02, 2020
In a Rare Event, Massive Star Disappears Without a Supernova
Astronomers were studying a massive star in the Kinman Dwarf Galaxy from 2001 to 2011. When they went back in 2019 to lo ...
AUG 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
A Very Distant Galaxy From the Early Universe Is a Lot Like the Milky Way
AUG 16, 2020
A Very Distant Galaxy From the Early Universe Is a Lot Like the Milky Way
With the power of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have identified a very young gala ...
AUG 27, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Space Rock May Contain Building Blocks for DNA
AUG 27, 2020
Space Rock May Contain Building Blocks for DNA
Researchers say that a space rock that landed in Costa Rica on April 23rd, 2019, came from an asteroid that exists as a ...
SEP 10, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Could There Be Life on Venus?
SEP 10, 2020
Could There Be Life on Venus?
Venus is the hottest planet in our solar system, reaching 465 degrees Celcius- a temperature hot enough to melt lead. Wh ...
SEP 17, 2020
Space & Astronomy
What the Sun's New Weather Cycle Means for Earth
SEP 17, 2020
What the Sun's New Weather Cycle Means for Earth
Scientists have confirmed that the sun is nine months into a new solar cycle, and that this 11-year cycle will resemble ...
Loading Comments...