Sunday, May 25, 2008

Solar Winds

The solar wind is a stream of charged particles (plasma) ejected from the upper atmosphere of the sun. It consists mostly of electrons and protons. The solar wind streams off of the Sun in all directions at speeds of about 400 km/s (about 1 million miles per hour). The source of the solar wind is the Sun's hot corona.

These particles are able to escape the sun's gravity because of the high temperature of the corona and high kinetic energy

The solar wind is divided into two components; 1.the slow solar wind and 2.the fast solar wind. The slow solar wind has a velocity of about 400 km/s, a temperature of 1.4–1.6×106 K and a composition that is a close match to the corona. The fast solar wind has a typical velocity of 750 km/s, a temperature of 8×105 K and it nearly matches the composition of the Sun's photosphere. The slow solar wind is twice as dense and more variable in intensity than the fast solar wind.

The solar wind is not uniform. Although it is always directed away from the Sun, it changes speed and carries with it magnetic clouds, interacting regions where high speed wind catches up with slow speed wind, and composition variations. The solar wind speed is high (800 km/s) over coronal holes and low (300 km/s) over streamers. These high and low speed streams interact with each other and alternately pass by the Earth as the Sun rotates. These wind speed variations buffet the Earth's magnetic field and can produce storms in the Earth's magnetosphere.

References include NASA

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