Solar Wind

The solar wind is a stream of charged particles released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun, called the corona. This plasma mostly consists of electrons, protons and alpha particles with kinetic energy between 0.5 and 10 keV. The composition of the solar wind plasma also includes a mixture of materials found in the solar plasma: trace amounts of heavy ions and atomic nuclei C, N, O, Ne, Mg, Si, S, and Fe. There are also rarer traces of some other nuclei and isotopes such as P, Ti, Cr, Ni, Fe 54 and 56, and Ni 58,60,62.

Embedded within the solar-wind plasma is the interplanetary magnetic field. The solar wind varies in density, temperature and speed over time and over solar latitude and longitude. Its particles can escape the Sun’s gravity because of their high energy resulting from the high temperature of the corona, which in turn is a result of the coronal magnetic field.

The existence of particles flowing outward from the Sun to the Earth was first suggested by British astronomer Richard C. Carrington. In 1859, Carrington and Richard Hodgson independently made the first observation of what would later be called a solar flare.

This is a sudden, localised increase in brightness on the solar disc, which is now known to often occur in conjunction with an episodic ejection of material and magnetic flux from the Sun’s atmosphere, known as a coronal mass ejection.

On the following day, a geomagnetic storm was observed, and Carrington suspected that there might be a connection, which is now attributed to the arrival of the coronal mass ejection in near-Earth space and its subsequent interaction with the Earth’s magnetosphere.

George FitzGerald later suggested that matter was being regularly accelerated away from the Sun and was reaching the Earth after several days.

More about Solar Wind in Wikipedia.

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