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NASA Unveils Origin Of Solar Winds With The Help Of Twin Spacecraft

NASA Unveils Origin Of Solar Winds With The Help Of Twin Spacecraft

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First Posted: Sep 22, 2016 05:59 AM EDT
Sun's Corona
Taken by Hinode's Solar Optical Telescope on Jan. 12, 2007, this image of the sun reveals the filamentary nature of the plasma connecting regions of different magnetic polarity. Hinode JAXA/NASA / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

NASA has reportedly gained deeper insight into the sun and solar winds with the help of the STEREO-A and STEREO-B twin spacecraft, which comprise Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) - a solar observation mission launched in 2006. The recent findings will enable researchers to know more about the origin of solar winds and their inner workings.

"Now we have a global picture of solar wind evolution. This is really going to change our understanding of how the space environment develops," said Nicholeen Viall, solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space flight Center. The twin spacecraft monitored the edge of the sun to understand the origin of solar winds, which is a constant flow of charged particles. The observation is particularly important because solar winds lead to solar storms that pose the threat of damaging satellites, and consequently destroy power lines on Earth.


The phenomenon of solar winds have been known by scientists since the 1950s, however their evolution remained somewhat of a mystery. It was known that the sun and its atmosphere comprised of plasma, positive and negative charged particles separating at exceedingly high temperatures, which streamed out of the corona and filled the solar system, going well beyond Pluto.


The new findings show that plasma goes through change as it travels farther away from our star. "As you go farther from the sun, the magnetic field strength drops faster than the pressure of the material does," said solar physicist Craig DeForest, lead author of the study. "Eventually, the material starts to act more like a gas, and less like magnetically structured plasma."

The scientific community already believed that magnetic forces are powerful at the edge of the corona; however this is the first time that the effect has actually been seen, though it was extremely tough to catch it on camera due to the tenuous plasma that scatters sunlight. The researching team of scientists had to process the photos to see the light sources that were 100 times the brightness of the plasma, to observe the effect.

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