Solar winds are among the most phenomenal spectacles that we’ve ever recorded in space, and yet they’re widely misunderstood. The winds that occur on the sun are unlike the winds that we experience here on earth, having completely different properties, causes and effects. If there’s one thing that we can all agree upon, however, it’s that they’re absolutely fascinating, showcasing the majestic nature of this magnificent star.
If you want to understand how and why solar winds occur, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to explain this occurrence in depth so that you can appreciate it all the more.
How Solar Winds Form
One of the largest misconceptions about solar winds is the idea that these winds occur intermittently. The fact is that the sun is windy in nature, and winds are constant. However, the unique properties of the winds vary depending on a wide range of factors, including the radiation levels, temperature, location on the sun and magnetic field.
What solar winds are, in fact, are streams of electrically charged particles that come from the corona, which is the sun’s top atmosphere. The reason why these particles are easily released from the sun’s atmosphere is because of the amount of charge that they hold, and how this charge relates to the gravitational pull that surrounds them. The sun’s atmosphere consists of plasma, which contains both positively and negatively charged particles.
The velocity of each solar wind is different depending on where the wind is occurring on the sun. Coronal holes, which are areas of the sun’s atmosphere which are cooler in temperature, will see winds with higher velocity levels, while winds that are in close proximity to the equator of the corona see slower winds. Solar winds are capable of reaching 500 miles per second, and their temperatures can be in the millions.
The Effects That Solar Winds Have
Solar winds, by nature, release the sun’s particles into space thanks to their high velocity levels. Many of these particles interact with our planet. These particles have strong electrical charges, which means that they carry high levels of radiation. Now, were these particles capable of reaching the earth, they would have serious negative effects on life. But, thanks to our planet’s magnetic field, these particles are automatically redirected back into space.
Occasionally, solar winds will cause coronal mass ejections, which are bursts of the sun’s plasma, to encounter the magnetic field of a planet. The aurora borealis, or northern lights, is, in fact, the result of these bursts of plasma interacting with our planet’s magnetic field. The light displays that take place as a result of this process are awe-inspiring and widely observed for their beauty.
It’s important to keep in mind that unlike our planet, our moon does not have such a magnetic field, and so it does receive the particles that are spewed as a result of solar winds. Similarly, Mercury takes on much of these blasts of plasma due to the unique properties of its magnetic field.
A True Phenomenon Indeed
Solar winds remain one of the most interesting things that we can observe in regard to the sun, and modern technology allows us to observe and record them more than we ever could in the past. Now that you understand these winds more thoroughly, you can gain a larger understanding of the sun in general and appreciate these winds for what they tell us about the sun’s unique properties. As you can see, the winds that take place on the sun are quite different from the ones that we experience daily on our own planet.