|"What is the Sun? If the
science of astronomy could solve this great problem, it would be
nearly capable of solving that of the entire Universe."
- Amedee Guillemin
Solar Wind - Solar wind, sometimes referred to as magnetized plasma, is particles, mostly of protons and electrons, that fly outward escaping the gravity of the Sun's corona at temperatures of approximately one million degrees Celsius. They fly at speeds between 300 and 700 kilometers per second. These particles are called solar wind. They fly to distances beyond the location of the Voyager 2 space probe that is located beyond Pluto's orbit nearly 5914 million kilometers away from the Sun.
Solar wind blows gas and dust oozing out of a cometary nucleus backward, creating the characteristic tails of comets. Tails of comets are often split into two parts. One part is deflected by sunlight and the other by the streaming solar wind.
To study the solar wind, the European space probe Ulysses was launched. Ulysses can study the north and south "polar" regions of the Sun. Solar wind is very irregular and much faster near the polar regions of the Sun than at the Sun's equator.
When solar wind strikes the magnetic fields of planets they interact to form the magnetosphere of the planet. A magnetosphere is a zone circling planets that contains electrons and protons from the Sun. It protects living things on Earth from solar radiation. There are two gaps in the magnetosphere, one each at the north and south poles. Charged particles of solar wind enter through these gaps, hit the earth's atmosphere at high speeds and make it shine causing the magnificent polar lights called aurorad.
©Copyright 1998 Elizabeth
Beckett, Holly Bernitt, and Vishwa Chandra.